Sunday, November 12, 2006

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today’s my 40th birthday. Like so many things, birthdays take on new meaning once you’ve had cancer. Life before cancer: “Oh no, I’m 40! Over the hill! I’m getting old!” Life after cancer: “Hooray! I’m 40! I’m still alive!”

To non-cancer people, birthdays and aging can be depressing because these bring them closer to infirmity and death. To people who’ve had cancer, birthdays are triumphs over infirmity and death. So each birthday I celebrate is me tweaking my nose at cancer and saying, “Ha! You haven’t gotten me yet!”

When I was in my twenties, I thought I wouldn’t want to live past 60 or so. I wanted to die while I was still in good shape, physically and mentally, so I wouldn’t have to witness my body and mind slowly wasting away. At the time, 60 seemed like a very old age but as I got older, 60 seemed too young to even think about dying.

But now that I’ve had cancer, I’ve gone back to thinking that 60 is pretty old for me -- that is, if I can make it to 60, I’ll think I’ve gotten more than a bargain out of life. I’d even be grateful to live to 50. Josie will be 13 and Toby will be 11 then. Kids that young shouldn’t lose their mother, but at least at that age, they’ll have some memories of me and memories are better than nothing at all.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. One birthday at a time. I’ll just keep holding out for one more year.

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