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A string of photographs showing like milestones


I remember when my first son was born, I kept track of all his firsts, his first smile, first words, the first time he walked, and all the milestones. With my two other boys, I was more flustered and less vigilant about keeping the records, but I tried. On their birthday, I make them each a birthday book with the photos and events most relevant to them for that birthday year. I include their birthday cards and any milestones. For a child, a milestone is a significant step forward in their development or a monumental event, but in the beginning, it is the firsts that are important.

Appreciating life after a cancer diagnosis

As I move forward after my cancer diagnosis and treatments, I am embracing my firsts. There is before cancer, and after cancer, everything that happens after cancer becomes new. I found that each of these firsts meant more to me than before cancer. Even if the prognosis is good, there is always the fear lurking that you may not be able to do these things again, so each first time for something feels monumental.

I have come to truly appreciate the simple acts of life like going out to a restaurant, a movie, eating certain types of food, attending events and games, traveling or merely putting honey in my tea. I had taken for granted the pure luxury of being out in the world fearless. The first few times I ventured out I would hear someone cough or sneeze and tense up. The months of fear of germs has left me skittish. Each event felt like a risk, a step into the world crossing a line into the land of the living.

Choose to be kind

The first time I went to a basketball game, I was still neutropenic, and I tried to stay out of the crowds. I went to the area above the gym to watch away from the crowds. The gym keepers shooed me out because I was watching from their track and not walking. Moments after I left, my son made a basket. He was so proud and thought I was finally watching. It broke my heart when they came out to find I was not there. I will remember that moment and how hurtful it was to be asked to leave even after I explained my circumstances. Whenever there is a choice to be kind, choose kindness, you never what someone else is going through.

In the beginning, I was self-conscious because I had lost most of my hair and wore caps. The first time I went to a restaurant was for my son’s birthday. I knew after missing so much with him; it meant a lot that I could be there to celebrate. The first time I went to church was my other son’s confirmation. I felt worried about germs, and I tugged at my hat but being there in the place that gave me so much strength and seeing him recognize his faith was a beautiful first.

Embracing my first shaved head

My first visit to my salon was empowering. I decided to cut off the sick hair that was left. I never dramatically shaved my head, but I went super short, which was undoubtedly a first for me. I am embracing my easy do with pride.

It is vital that we embrace and recognize not just our firsts, but everyday activities. We never know when it could be the last. I will try to find the joy in the moments and not let the fear seep into my days. I am more keenly aware of the fragility of firsts.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Ann Harper moderator
    3 months ago

    What a powerful story. You are right. We never know what the future holds and how just one day could totally change our lives. It is so important for us to embrace each and everyday. It’s sad that many of us do not. Even though I know how important it is, daily issues and problems come up and throw me off track. This was a perfect reminder for trying to remember what’s really important. Thank you.

  • Racheli Alkobey moderator
    3 months ago

    I love this quote “There is before cancer, and after cancer, everything that happens after cancer becomes new.”

    It is so incredibly true and important to remember and keep in practice. Every day is a new day and we must embrace all the new experiences and new chances we’ve been given post cancer.

  • Ann Harper moderator
    3 months ago

    I love that quote too.

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