07/18/2013 11:20 am ET Updated Sep 17, 2013

Surviving Cancer Won't Be My Biggest Accomplishment

I can't help but wonder why we as humans put such an importance on the passing of 365 days (or occasionally, 366). It's not even a nice rounded out number, like 300... it's just a random conglomeration of numbers. Now, I know that's how long it takes the earth to circle the sun and all that, but why does it matter that our planet just did a solar lap? Haven't we done enough of those by now anyways? What's so special about yet another one?

And yet, it does matter.

It matters when 365 days ago, a new life was born into this world, and it matters when yet another 365 days ago, somebody else's life was taken from it. This might be the biggest understatement I've ever made, but obviously, life is a big deal to us.

365 days ago, my life changed forever when I almost lost it.

As I reflect on the one-year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis, I don't really know how to feel or how to make sense of it. On one hand, I'm happy and incredibly grateful to be standing on this side of the past year, having conquered things I never imagined possible with the help of some truly amazing people. On the other hand, I am completely devastated as I now see through the clearing smoke all the rubble left on the battlefield that was this past year of my life. In many ways, I feel like a survivor of a terrible war... alive, and happy to be so, but with a very different life waiting for me now.

The only thing I can really think to do is to keep moving forward. Yes, this year happened. I survived it. I remember it every day, and will always live with the aftermath of it. Still, I must keep moving forward. If I let myself drown in the fear and pain of the past, then my fight has been for nothing. This is so incredibly difficult to do, as each searing, painful memory still feels like reality... but I keep reminding myself of the now.

Now, I am in remission and on maintenance treatment. Now, I am regaining my strength and independence, and doing things I used to only daydream of doing. Simple things, like standing in the shower and washing my hair, or walking up the stairs on my own... and big things, like driving myself to meet up with friends out of town, or my upcoming vacation to the beaches I imagined escaping to during painful chemo infusions.

Yes, I am blessed indeed -- I have not only life, but an abundant, beautifully filled life. Now, I am okay, I am strong, I am here... I am alive.

I think I will always be cautious, perhaps paranoid, of my future health. It's part of the baggage of surviving cancer, especially one with a high relapse rate. But I'm finally feeling strong enough to start living not just in spite of all that has happened, but because of all that has happened. I will be more than what happened to me this past year. Surviving cancer is not going to be my biggest accomplishment in life. Living my life to the fullest, with love for others and the determination to carry out my dreams without fear... that will be my biggest accomplishment in life.