7 Special Ways to Celebrate a Cancerversary

If you’ve ever been diagnosed with cancer, you’ll know that every experience with it is as unique as each person that receives a diagnosis. The same can be said for the milestones that one chooses to celebrate during their cancer journey. It can feel like a long, lonely road – but finding little moments of light and joy can make one’s cancer journey feel a little less heavy.

A cancerversary, the name for such milestones, can range from the diagnosis date to the day that treatment concluded. These celebrations, either for themselves or a loved one, can occur in a variety of ways.

In this article, we’ll share ways to celebrate a cancer anniversary, as well as fun gift ideas that you could give to yourself or a loved one experiencing cancer.

What Is a Cancerversary?

A cancerversary is an event to recognize or celebrate a significant moment in a cancer journey. It is the marking of a specific date, time or turning point that is cause for recognition.

Because everyone’s journey is different, each cancerversary event can differ too. Here are a few milestones that people dealing with cancer often celebrate or make note of:

  1. An end of treatment date (radiation, chemotherapy or other treatments)
  2. Being given the news that they’re cancer-free
  3. The anniversary of a tumor removal or other cancer-related surgery
  4. A positive turning point in their treatment course
  5. A diagnosis date

These are only a few of the milestones that people like to celebrate – yours could be one of these or something completely different. The beauty of the cancerversary is that each celebratory milestone is completely up to you.

How to Celebrate a Cancerversary

Celebrating a cancerversary is as unique as the individual to whom it belongs. They signify looking forward to the future and commemorating your survivorship. Here are a few ways that you could celebrate or honor a cancerversary, both in person or from afar:

1. Spend Time With Your Loved Ones (Virtually or In Person)

O'Donnell Family & Friends Gathering for Picnic
O’Donnell Family & Friends Gathering for Picnic

Whether face-to-face or in a group video call, spending time with your loved ones is a great way to celebrate a milestone. You’re surrounding yourself with those that will always support you, which can make each milestone much more meaningful.

You could plan a meal, schedule an outing to an outdoor venue, go on a vacation or simply find a time when you all are available to connect virtually if distance doesn’t allow for an in-person gathering.

“Being a 4 time cancer survivor, I celebrate each and every day. I will only pass through this life one time…you have to make the best of each day.”

Terry S.

2. Indulge in a Self-Care Practice

When you’re celebrating a significant milestone in your journey with cancer, sometimes the best thing is to care for yourself. 

Treat yourself to a spa day, or take yourself out on a “date”. Find a way to show yourself some love and attention – you’ve been down a difficult road, and a little pampering can be just what the doctor ordered.

3. Pay It Forward

This message accompanied every random act of kindness done in honor of Zach.

A beautiful way to celebrate your own cancerversary milestone is to pay it forward or give back – either to those celebrating a similar milestone or those just beginning their journey. You can share stories, experiences or even offer to volunteer. 

“I wore a graduation cap to my last infusion, then passed it forward the next day to a sweet, new friend Anne, who was “graduating” from her final radiation treatment. Giving thanks to God, and celebrating every “wonder-filled” day!”

Linda M.J.

4. Make It a Theme

Another idea – you can make your cancerversary a theme! You could have a virtual or in-person party for your loved ones, and even include the medical staff that helped you along the way. It’s a great way to show the people that love you that their support is valued. 

“My first cancerversary, I took pictures with my infusion nurses, wore a pink hat and shared pink cupcakes with them and shared rest at work!! Posted pictures on Facebook to my family and friends!” – Melissa E.

5. Visit Your Medical Staff

Your medical staff that have helped you along your journey love to see your milestones and celebrate with you! One fun way to give back is to spend time with them to thank them for their help and support, or simply to show how much you appreciate them. We promise, it will make their day brighter!

Note: During the COVID-19 pandemic it may be difficult to visit medical staff in person. You can send them a heartfelt thank you note, or have coffee delivered to their work – just make sure you check with the hospital or clinic beforehand.

“I brought flowers to the nurses at the hospital, on the floor where I was (for nine days) on my one year cancerversary. Now, 12 years later, I pay it forward and deliver meals to people in medical crisis on my lunch hour twice a month. It makes me happy and I know it is helping them too.”

Becky M.K.

6. Share Your News on Social Media

Sometimes the best way to celebrate a cancerversary is to update your family and friends. Social media is one great way to stay connected. 

Another wonderful way to keep friends and family in the loop with your milestones, and able to celebrate with you is to create a CaringBridge site. Send updates to loved ones and share with them the highs and lows of your journey, as well as the causes for celebration.

Start a Site

7. Take Some Time to Reflect

It’s just as important to look back as it is to look forward, especially when going through a cancer journey. You’ve come so far – your cancerversary milestone proves it. 

Take the time to reflect on where you’ve been, the milestones you’ve achieved, or the goals that you’ve set for yourself. If you’ve achieved your previous goals, set new ones! Cancerversaries are all about moving forward and celebrating your life – some people find writing helpful, either on a CaringBridge site or a personal blog. It’ll help you remember your journey, and give you the strength to keep pushing forward.

Cancerversary Gift Ideas

Sometimes celebrating your first one year cancer-free or future cancer anniversaries is to give yourself or your loved one experiencing a cancer journey a gift. It can be big or small, or sometimes even an “I’m thinking of you” card sent in classic snail mail fashion. 

One way that you could gift yourself is to cross an item off of your bucket list – perhaps it’s a destination you’ve always wanted to visit, a cooking class that you’ve wanted to take or a dish that you’ve been meaning to try. Bring a loved one and make a day of it, and perhaps you could bring back a little momento as your reminder to celebrate each cancer anniversary as they come.

A gift for a loved one could be as simple as treating them to a meal, or connecting over a video chat if you can’t meet in person. Sometimes showing your support for your loved one can be as meaningful and impactful as any other gift you might give.

These little tokens or momentos give us something to hold on to, a way to remember previous cancer anniversaries and ones still to come.

What Are Your Cancerversary Ideas?

A cancerversary is a very important milestone in your journey with cancer, and certainly cause for celebration. It’s about surviving – living through a difficult period in your life and coming through on the other side, brighter than before. Whether you choose to have an in-person or virtual gathering or spend the day doing something you love, each type of celebration is as unique as your (or your loved one’s) experience with cancer. 

We hope you were able to take some inspiration from this list of ideas. We sincerely appreciate the input from our CaringBridge community, the real experts, for their ideas. If you could add to this list, what would be a way that you would celebrate a cancerversary? 

Please share with us in the comments below!

  • Cathy B.

    We had a surprise One Year Cancer Free car parade for my husband during the pandemic. My daughter-in-law and I made sugar cookies cut in the shape of the cancer ribbon and tinted the icing green for Lymphoma, which is the type of cancer my husband has. We passed out pre-packaged cookies as a party favor to cars as they went by in parade.

  • Arlene Morton

    On my 5 year cancer free day, I and 4 friends went out for dinner got breast cancer ribbon tattoos, (or 4 minus one who hates needles) . I had my ribbon start on one of my radiation tattoo dots and the other end is rising up towards the sky to signify “it’s only up from here”. It was a day of celebration!

  • Susan Bologna

    I had a family member and two friends use this site, I think it is wonderful and your advice along the way has helped me talk to people in a better and more helpful way. I really like the # 3 idea, so sorry for the loss of your son at 16. Keep up the good work.
    Sending Love and Hugs to All.
    Susan Bologna

  • Linda Dudley

    Dearest Terry and Barry, I hear that you may be able to come up to Meira’s in between treatments. If you can, please let me know. I would so, so much love to see you all. Meanwhile, you all are always in my prayers. So much love….

  • Esther Corley

    I beat breast cancer in 1976..and colon cancer about 16 or so years ago. May I say I’m a survivor? My advice…do not put your head in the sand – the earlier cancer is caught, the better chance of survival! I am proud of what I have overcome.

  • Lynette veelman

    I painted a picture of a photo my surgeon had given me of my spinal coropectomy and spinal fusion. I write him a thank you note each year on the date of my surgery. He always responds. He framed and hung up my painting in his office along with my thank you note.