Birthdays Are Now Bittersweet

Tomorrow is my 41st birthday. It’s also the day before I was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago.

I used to love my birthday. Since I was a kid, my mom always made a big deal of birthdays. They were fun and special. But that was before cancer came into my life. Now my birthdays are bittersweet with new significance.

Every birthday is now a big fuck you to cancer. Another year I’ve survived. Another year that I’m able to be around to talk about having had cancer. Another year that I’m able to keep dreaming about growing old.

Tomorrow is only my 2nd birthday having survived cancer. So I feel like I’m still figuring out the roller coaster of being a cancer survivor and being able to celebrate my birthday without getting upset that the day after is my diagnosis day. It’s hard to separate the two days.

Two years ago, I felt my lump a week before my birthday. My friends and family wanted to celebrate my birthday, but I knew that a diagnosis was coming. So I didn’t much feel like celebrating. I couldn’t stop crying about what I knew would be a change for the worse in my life. Even though the results weren’t in yet, I just knew I was in for a long treatment for breast cancer.

Last year, I had finished chemo and radiation just two months before my birthday. My hair was starting to come back, which felt great, but I was just beginning to deal with everything I had gone through. It wasn’t until after I was finished with treatment that I could attempt to process what had just happened. So, by the time my birthday came around, I was trying to make sense of what I went through and couldn’t stop crying about it.

But this year, I’m looking forward to celebrating my birthday The usual things will happen, as they have all my life – people will call to tell me happy birthday and how much they love me. I’ll get cards in the mail or emails wishing me a great day. I’ll go out for dinner with people I love, a great reminder of how lucky I am to have amazing people in my life.

And I’m sure I’ll be crying again this year, but this time those tears will be grateful tears. Grateful that I’m here to celebrate another birthday. Grateful that I’m cancer free (fingers crossed that lasts for another 41 years). Grateful that I have so many wonderful people who support me in happy times and tough times.

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I Dream of Getting Old

Recently, it seems like everywhere I turn, everyone is complaining about getting old. They hate their grey hair. They hate their bald head. They hate their sagging skin. They hate their wrinkles.

I was never one of those people that hated the idea or reality of getting old. I liked it when I saw a grey hair on my head. When I turned 30, I threw myself a huge party to celebrate entering a new decade. While everyone else was grumbling about getting old, I was excited. I felt like getting older meant having more experiences, becoming wiser, knowing yourself more. All good things.

Before my breast cancer diagnosis, I would laugh at people when they moaned about getting old. But now, after facing a life-threatening illness, I get sad when I hear people talk about how much they hate getting old. All I can think is what a luxury it is to grow old. I actually dream about getting old.

I dream about being 90, sitting on a park bench, talking with friends about how great our lives have been. I dream about being able to live a long life where I feel like I’ve been able to do everything I want. I dream about having children and grandchildren, and getting to watch then grow up.

Nothing is life is guaranteed. I’ve always known that. But now it feels very real and personal, rather than just a saying. So I’m trying to live each day to its fullest and spend time with the people that mean the most to me. Whether I have one more year to live or make it to 90, its a good way to live.

But I just can’t help feeling jealous of those people who complain about getting old. I should be so lucky.