One month ago today, we moved into our new home.

Friday, I registered my baby for Kindergarten.

Two days ago was my dear friend Dee’s birthday – a woman who lives thousands of miles away, yet somehow still finds a way to be here for me at those moments when it’s most important.

Yesterday was Candice‘s birthday, the first birthday she didn’t live to see, and I’m still angry that she’s gone.

In twelve days my little girl turns five.

On April Fools Day, it will be the first anniversary of Michele‘s death; that still feels like the cruelest of cosmic jokes.

In two months, if I manage to get my act together and pass these classes, I will finally graduate with my bachelor’s degree. It took 25 years from the start of the degree, and I stuck with it through several levels of hell, and no small measure of high water. But I’m right here at the end of that road, dammit, and I’m going to finish it.

And today?


Today is my fourth cancerversary. It is the fourth anniversary of the day my world was turned upside-down. It is the anniversary of the first time I really had to grapple with my mortality, with the knowledge that I can’t control how much time I have left. I had to accept the fact that despite my infinite love for my daughter, I could not promise her that I would always be here for her. I had to imagine the possibility of her growing up without a mother.

It took a while for me to let go of the idea of getting back to normal – that doesn’t happen after cancer. Instead, I’m learning to dream new dreams, and take what happened to me and try to make the best of it. I could sit here and mope through the day, feeling sorry for myself, but I haven’t spent any of my cancerversaries that way yet. In fact, last year something magical happened.

Tonight, I will be meeting with other leaders of the local Young Survival Coalition to plan out ways we can help other young women with breast cancer through the year ahead.

Life keeps coming at me from a thousand different directions. It’s a maelstrom of joy and fear, comfort and pain, fun and hard work. It’s exhausting and overwhelming, and often moves me to tears. Maybe that’s how I know I’m really living.


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Judy Schwartz Haley


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