Happy Cancerversary: “You Can Take Your Mask off Now!”

by Christa CarlucciSurvivor, Non-Hodgkin's LymphomaAugust 9, 2021View more posts from Christa Carlucci

There are many milestones to which we pay joyful homage. Weddings, graduations, having a new baby. But there is one that generally goes unnoticed. Being a cancer survivor.

And rightfully so. We’re not the majority of the population. Interestingly enough, depending on who you talk to, this celebration doesn’t always bring the kind of joy one would expect.

After experiencing chronic misdiagnosis, a summers’ long hospital stay (4 years ago), and grueling treatment for a Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma whose formal name is longer than this article, I’m not always ready for confetti when my “ cancerversary” diagnosis day comes rolling around. It stirs the pot and brings up all of the change that was forced upon me without my consent. OH, and by the way, so does this whole COVID thing.

As I’m writing this, we have been inundated with, “You can take your mask off now!” vaccination enthusiasm. Except for, I don’t feel enthusiastic. My apple cart has been turned upside down enough, thank you very much. My mask has become my comforting companion.

The other day, the outdoor coffee stand that I frequent, formally got dismantled. It forced me to now take my fully vaccinated self indoors. I cried. My outdoor safe space that I’d known throughout COVID was gone. And, well, MORE change. But through it, I’m learning that it’s all ok. It’s ok to mourn my safe space and to reach for finding a new one. It’s ok to acknowledge that cancer and my experience with it sucks, even though I survived. And it’s ok to leave my mask on.

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