Six! My Annual Celebration of Being Cancer Free

Posted April 27, 2011 by jimhigley

My annual story of thanks. Enjoy.

My fifth birthday party has long been the gold standard in my life for celebrations. Just ask Kristin, Kirk, Kathy, Debbie or Nancy. They were there. And I know they all relished in – and probably were a little jealous of – my highly original cowboy theme, the amazing assortment of backyard games, and my mom’s decorations, the focal point being a table covered edge-to-edge with M&Ms. I’ve lived most of my life thinking nothing could ever top that celebration.

Funny thing, during the last few years, I’ve had a different kind of annual celebration that knocks the socks off that cowboy-M&M-rich day. I actually celebrated it this past week. It was six years ago this week that my doctor called me at home on an uneventful Sunday afternoon to deliver a cancer diagnosis. Since then, life has never returned to the old normal.

The new normal, after surgery, recovery and subsequent treatment is, as my oncologist says, learning to manage this disease. That includes a combination of thirty-some prescriptions and supplements every day to keep sleeping cancer cells asleep. It also includes living three months at a time before heading back to the clinic for a series of tests with hopes of getting another hall pass of good health for the next three months.

“How long will we be doing this?” I asked my doctor shortly after we started our journey together.

“Until you die,” he replied.

Welcome to the new normal.

But, the new normal is also unleashingly good. The new normal comes with the permission to live richer, to speak freely, to cry openly, to make mistakes, to take chances, to say “yes” to new things, and to tell those “someones” in your life just how deep your love is for them.

My someones are my three children. They were drafted into this story without choice.

As anyone who has dealt with cancer will tell you, from the moment you receive your diagnosis, you become a survivor. I also have come to learn that cancer is a family disease. That makes the entire family survivors.

The truth is – and I say this with nothing but respect for the millions of people living with cancer  – my kids and I like to refer to ourselves as cancer warriors. How, exactly, does one become a warrior? We make a conscience effort to make each day count. We help others. We volunteer. We reach out. And, we appreciate what we have as opposed to dwell on the fear of what we could lose.

I started running in races a few years ago. It was part of my mental health program. Perhaps you’ve seen me? I’m the guy at the back of the pack. Always. But being slow has an advantage. It allows you to observe others. My favorite “other” was a woman in the Lincoln Half Marathon a few years ago. She was older than me. We were both bald so we had a natural connection. She was running with a pack of people who clearly adored her. Her husband, I assumed. Children. Friends. Neighbors.

On the back of her pink t-shirt she had written her words of wisdom with a black marker.

Someday I won’t be able to run. But today I can.

She was a warrior, too.

Every cancer story is different. And, it is with the most humble gratitude that I acknowledge my six year mark. Far too many are not as fortunate.

If you know anyone who deals with cancer – survivors, warriors, family – I hope you’ll ask them how they are doing. Better yet, give them a hug. Do it today because, well, today you can. They will be warmed by your thoughtfulness.

So how are we going to celebrate our 6th birthday this week? Probably no different than we’ve celebrated the last 2,190 days. Maybe I’ll spread M&Ms all over the table.

Dark chocolate this time.

P.S. A pitch for a dear friend and another cancer warrior – Jen Singer. Jen is launching a great new website on Wednesday, April 27. Won’t you help me celebrate my 6th birthday by checking it out at:

The URL should tell you the beauty of what this site is all about.

Have a wonderful day.

  • Lisa

    Happy anniversary! And many, many, many more! 🙂

  • Anonymous

    As someone who is one year free, you're an inspiration.

  • Jim Higley is the Bobblehead Dad – writer, speaker, life observer and cancer warrior.

    @Lisa …..thank so much. LOVE your bunny avatar.

    And to my other 1 year survivor friend! Wow! So psyched for you. Let's inspire each other. Your kind of story makes me soooooo happy!

  • Jaimie

    Love you, Uncle Jim!
    (funny, my most recent post fits in with this)

  • LindsayDianne

    This was such an incredible post because it was so honest. Taking a situation like this with a grain of salt is not easy, but you are being the best example ever to your children by doing what you need to do, each day, to live the life that you want to live and leave the legacy that you want to live.
    A lot of people never get that far.

  • Marco Morelli

    Happy Anniversary Jim! I love the positive outlook on life you have. Again, I can't wait to read you're story.

    Running any races soon?

  • Melissa McRae

    Very inspiring post. Happy 6 year to you, and I hope you have many more. Thank you for sharing your story. My hope is that more people can become "warriors" just as you and your clan have become!

  • Jim Higley is the Bobblehead Dad – writer, speaker, life observer and cancer warrior.

    @jaimie – Love you too! I loved your blog. Feel better!

    Lindsay – you are so right! Every. Day. Has. Value!

    Marco- Dang, I'm glad I know people like you! Just the Chicago Marathon right now…need some fillers.

    Melissa…I actually visualize myself wearing warpaint sometime when dealing with heavy, cancer issues. It puts me in the fighting mood!

  • Anonymous

    Jim — how about running the Ricky Byrdsong Race Against Hate on Sunday, June 19? It's a 5k so it won't take you all day and it starts at 8 am in Evanston. It's a good time and celebrates a wonderful man's life!

  • Kevin

    Love you Dad!

  • Jim Higley is the Bobblehead Dad – writer, speaker, life observer and cancer warrior.

    Kevin – you're one of the bravest, toughest cancer warriors I know. You are changing the world.

  • Caleb

    Congrats, Jim! That's quite a milestone.

  • Jim Higley is the Bobblehead Dad – writer, speaker, life observer and cancer warrior.

    Hey Caleb! Thanks!

  • GutsyWriter

    Jim, I'm so glad I found you and congratulate you on raising three children. I shall contact you in the future for a guest post if that's OK. Sonia.

  • Jim Higley is the Bobblehead Dad – writer, speaker, life observer and cancer warrior.

    Hi Sonia – thanks for the nice note! I see you live in OC – we are out there a lot…all of my cousins are there! Thanks for the support and have a great week!

  • Beta Dad

    Congrats, Jim! Hope you had a great day!