Happy Anniversary
How do you measure a year?
By Cynthia R. Nelson

This continues a series of personal notes from Cynthia Nelson, 35, of Moorestown, who was diagnosed with ovarian and cervical cancer in June 2005. Cynthia bravely shares with us her experiences, thoughts and impressions each month.


I’ve got these lyrics going through my head over and over again: “525,600 minutes. How do you measure, measure a year…” The striking words from the song “Seasons of Love” from the musical Rent are very appropriate right now. It’s been one year since cancer became the focus of my life.

It started on June 21, 2005 – the day I went into the hospital. The doctors had previously found a cancerous spot on my cervix and after much debate, I decided surgery was the best option for me. I was to have a total radical hysterectomy and be done. But on that day the doctor found the cancer had spread.

The song…it plays in my head…“How do you measure a year…in daylights, in sunsets, in midnights and cups of coffee… in miles… in strife…” How appropriate this song is. For me, it’s been in doctors, hospitals, tests and shots. Yes, in miles, thousands of miles, and many tears and sleepless nights.

It’s hard to believe a year, 525,600 minutes, has passed. I’m struck how I can remember things with so much clarity.

Cindy with her grandmother, who passed away in May but lived long enough to know that Cindy was successfully treated.

I remember being wheeled to the pre- op room that morning. I remember the sudden realization that my desire for biological children would not come true. I remember the worry in my mother’s eyes and the tears in mine. I remember Dave’s gentle voice trying to comfort us.

I remember waking up and seeing four people standing there – my mom, Dave, my good friend J. and a hospital staffer. I remember the anxiety when I woke up to hear the cancer had spread and I would need chemo.

I remember the loneliness of the hospital, despite all the chaos. I remember endless doctors, poking and prodding..the big radiation machine, the blue Xs on my thighs, marking the spot. I remember in the gut of my stomach the tension I felt driving to the hospital every morning for radiation and praying that the side effects wouldn’t hit until I made it back to my own bed. I remember the lack of appetite, the burning of my scalp, the panic of losing my hair – no matter how many times I was reminded it would grow back. I remember…

“…how do you measure a year… how about love?”

…a year when love has been very prevalent in my life. The love of family and friends, the kindness of neighbors and strangers. I’m grateful to everyone for unending concern and support, which is ongoing, even though I am past the main treatment stage.

I’m sure many readers are wondering, “It’s been a year. Really, how are you doing?” Honestly, I’m okay. Just okay. Some days are good; I’m energized, full of passion and raring to go! Some days are not so good. Some days I am still filled with dread and worry. Certain days I have aches and pains that remind me of the ones I had that sent me to the doctor in the first place. I panic, “what if…” I ask. It’s hard not to worry.

I try to remind myself on those days that I’ve made it past the hard part. I’m done with chemo. I’m done with radiation. I’ve made it through a year. It’s been one of the roughest years I’ve ever known but I’m still standing.

I hear the lyrics again…“You’ve got to remember… it’s time to sing out, though the story never ends, let’s celebrate and remember a year in the life…”

Yes, it’s been a year. 525,600 minutes. A year I won’t forget. I suspect I’ll remember the details for a very long time. And yes, my story will continue. Cancer marks itself on a life forever. But I’m here. It’s time to sing, to celebrate…to remember the good times. Besides the best, I suspect, is yet to come.

July 2006
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