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A Piece of My Mind
December 1, 2015

Every Little Anniversary

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Pediatrics, Section of Pediatric Neurology, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
JAMA. 2015;314(21):2237. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.12385

One of the things they tell you after they’ve informed you that you have cancer or that you’ve had a stroke—after they tell you about the resections and the radiation—after they tell you about the aspirin and the clopidogrel—after you’re stable medically but still more than a little unstable emotionally—is to look for a support group. I had the kind of cancer that you learn about in medical school and then never see. I was decades younger than most of my physicians’ patients with stroke. The local support groups didn’t seem to fit me. I looked online at first, but then—even though I found a few people who had my kind of cancer and others who were my age when they had their stroke—I shied away from joining a group. The participants kept talking about their anniversaries. The day they were diagnosed. The day they had their stroke. One year out. Five years. Ten. It struck me as very odd and morbid. I still couldn’t swallow properly. My hand didn’t work. My scar was fresh and itchy and constricting. Every movement that I made reminded me of what happened, but all I wanted to do was forget about it. The idea of choosing to revisit and celebrate those days annually was horrifying and depressing all at once. I stopped looking for support groups, and that focus on anniversaries was why. I thought that I’d focus on getting back to normal and getting through each day rather than getting to my next anniversary.

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