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Birthdays

Posted 12/5/2014

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  Today is my birthday. I started out to write a more normal entry about something that, hopefully, would be of interest to all of us who are living with cancer, and then I realized that absolutely nothing interests us more than celebrating another year of life.

  I often laugh with patients about the fact that, for most of us, a cancer diagnosis immediately cures any issues we have about aging. Hurray for wrinkles! Hurray for gray hair! Hurray for sags and aches and pains and anything else that happens with normal aging as opposed to from chemotherapy or illness. If you know me, you know that I try to look my best, but "my best" is a delighted age-appropriate, and I am thrilled to be getting old. 

Since I was first diagnosed with cancer when I was 44, I have spent a major portion of my adult life worrying about whether I would have a life. In the early years, I was very worried about what would happen to my daughters if I died and how I could possibly prepare them for such a loss. As I now look back over 20 years, I am flooded with memories. I think of the very special moments like weddings (including my own) and births and graduations and the very sorrowful moments like the death of my first grandson at 5 days of age or my mother's death at a much more appropriate age.

 And I think of all the small details of daily living that suprise and delight me. We who have been confronted straight on by our mortality (as in, this is VERY different from "We could all be hit by a bus") do notice and acknowledge and appreciate. We do pull over to the side of the road to watch the sun sink into the water or pause to fill our lungs with the delicious smell of fresh-cut grass or sea air or roses. We treausre our famiy and friends and relationships and hold them close.

  Wishing you all the happiest and most grateful of birthdays.

  From Mary Oliver:

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

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