It has been quite a year. Less than a year ago I was in the beginning of my fight against cancer-unsure if I was going to make it to my 30th birthday. I was bald, underweight, and praying that
my PET scan would show a reduction in the cancerous cells that had ravaged my body. I held my loved ones tight, I wrote, and I reached out to my world for love and support. As I called to you, you answered me with open arms-open hearts-and you were there, ready to brace my fall.
During some of my most vulnerable moments you reminded me that I am stronger today than yesterday-but not as strong as I will be tomorrow. A year ago I was desperately holding on to moments, praying for more time, and trying to find meaning amongst all of the suffering.
In March, I turned one. One year of being in remission. One year of seeing and living in hyper color. One year of living in a state of overwhelming gratitude. When I finished treatment this past spring and slowly tiptoed out of the shadows and into the real world, I found myself negotiating a lot of fears.
The further I moved away from the trauma, the more I started to rebuild—and the more I felt I had to lose. I was constantly waiting for the ball to drop.
During this period of overwhelming "what-ifs," I also wondered if I would ever find love again. Would I ever meet someone that could see beyond my physical scars and navigate their way through the scars that lay beneath? Would I ever be able to meet someone that saw my cancer experience as a strength as opposed to a handicap? Would I ever be able to meet someone that saw cancer as one piece of me-as opposed to all of me? Well. I met someone-and not just someone.
The person I was hoping to one day meet happened to be there all along. It took 10 years of living in close proximity to one another for us to be able to see each other for who we really are.
I not only found someone that is able to see beyond the scars and beyond the cancer, but I found someone that appreciates all my quirks, my eccentricity, and all the colors beyond the shade of grey.
My dear friend, soul sister, and fellow survivor Ann wrote, "with trauma comes perseverance, empathy, an open mind, and—most importantly—an open heart." I wholeheartedly believe that my journey with cancer is what has brought me here-which is exactly where I am supposed to be.
As I [celebrated] my one-year birthday and I reflect on what it means to be tied up and untied, I am reminded the importance of holding on to hope, of dreaming big, and believing that miracles can and do happen.
Jenna Benn is the assistant regional director of the Anti-Defamation League Chicago/Upper Midwest Region and an Oy!Chicago blogger. She is the founder of Twist Out Cancer, which launched in June.