Tomorrow marks the fifth anniversary of being given the staggering news that I had breast cancer.

My, a lot has happened since then.

For one thing, I am still here and preparing to celebrate five years cancer-free.

It did not start out on that note, of course.

I can still vividly remember many of the details in the aftermath of hearing the news.

The bulk of the trip home was spent in awkward silence, fighting back tears and unable to keep my thoughts coherent. The ride was interrupted several times by incoming phone calls from doctor’s offices setting up appointments for what would consume my life as a newly-minted “cancer patient.”

I recently heard someone share about a patient being given the news that his cancer was terminal and there was “no hope.”

Can you imagine? Even if the prognosis looks grim and there is not a definitive answer, right now at least, should anyone ever take away our hope?

I think not.

I promise you, as knowledgeable and expert as all my health care providers were along the way, they were also human and therefore limited in predicting the future.

I would like to think that at the very least, they can still cling to a shred of hope, or at the very least that we can all find something on which to steady ourselves.

Truth is, none of us knows what tomorrow holds. Or anything in the future, be it this week, this month or five years from now.

Thank goodness we don’t. We might miss out on some very important things, by holding back or limiting ourselves due to fear or hesitation.

I’ve often told people that the only difference between me and them is that I had received a diagnosis. It gave me additional information that I did not have before that moment.

Did it change the way I approached my future? Definitely. But only in the very best possible ways.

For I got to appreciate the value of choice. Each and every day, I no longer arose as though I was sleep-walking and had plenty of time to accomplish things.

I’m not saying I navigated the ensuing months gracefully or well. But I sure as heck did one thing right — I let go of a ton of small stuff.

Things like bad hair days and grumbling about some silly person’s behavior.

The one element I miss has been how much that era taught me about letting go of things that truly did not matter. It was freeing and refreshing, and allowed me the benefit of simply enjoying life and taking nothing for granted.

The biggest thing in that category, that I cannot and will not take for granted ever again, is the gift of life.

No one has a promise of tomorrow, much less a long and healthy, or happy, life. 

We are all given whatever time it winds up being. 

But the quality of life is in our hands. We get to choose whether each hour, each moment and each anniversary we are blessed to celebrate is time spent in a worthwhile manner or is wasted.