5-year ?cancerversary? prompts reflection

Feb. 4 is World Cancer Day. This year Feb. 4 is my five-year ?cancerversary.? On this day in 2010 I was told I had stage IV anal cancer and an uncertain, and perhaps short, future.

My husband and I reminisced about that morning over dinner last night. We had fried chicken and, as we were enjoying the less-than-healthy extra crispy skin on our bird, we chatted.

Our light words became more somber as we remembered every detail of being told. I shuddered just thinking about it. Our words seemed to hang in the air and finally we took a moment of silence and let them dissipate like vapor. A painful memory released.

We turned the conversation to the here and now, and how much things have changed. They certainly didn?t turn out as we expected and my personal motivation has changed.

At first my goals were short term. The items that made the ?short list??which is all I thought I was getting at the time? first, stay alive. Second, be sure everyone I love knows it. Third, stay alive. As you can tell, it was all about me in those first moments of my diagnosis. I accomplished the short list.

It wasn?t until three years later, when I realized that all was not lost and I was living beyond predictions, that I started deeper self-examination. I knew my cancer needed a voice. I knew I had a voice and what I had to say wasn?t about me.

I had been focusing on me, my health and my life, but the longer I survived I came to understand that it?s really not about me but about fulfilling my purpose. Raising awareness to save lives to ensure that nobody had to ?be me.? It was time for new goals.

Since that epiphany I have become passionate about awareness. It is the driving force behind everything I do for lower GI cancers.

So when one of our local stations, KSN Channel 3, contacted me about being on the morning show on World Cancer Day it just seemed natural to say yes. I live a pretty unscripted life and it?s how I approach telling my story to the public.

So, as I typically do, I took a little scratch paper and jotted down the points I wanted to get across during my minute in the spotlight. At the top I write ?I have been asked to tell my story.? Under?neath I indicate the coincidence of WCD and my cancer milestone.

I write, ?5 years ago, fear, angst, doubt, shame.? I skip a couple lines then write, ?Last 5 years – grown.? Then it dawns on me, how the ?Story of Me? has changed over that time.

I write, ?It has become more and more about others and less and less about me.? Telling my story for me is not relaying the harrowing, odds defying journey I have been on. It?s raising awareness so others can know when to seek treatment and offering support and hope to others along the way.

The way I see it, it?s really not about my story of survival at all, it?s about yours!

Michele Longabaugh lives in Wichita. She tells the story of her fight with Stage 4 cancer in her book, ?If You?re Not Laughing, You?re Dying.?