Friday, January 6, 2012

Birthdays After Cancer


OK, this isn’t about writing. Sort of.

It’s about my birthday, which was yesterday, when my husband and my 20 year old son drove me up the California coast to my favorite outdoor café in Santa Barbara and to a sunset walk on the beach that I’ve loved best since childhood.

When my daughter called from Manhattan to have a wonderful birthday conversation, and my 88 year old mother offered to share the grisly details of my birth before I stopped her.

Yesterday was also my 19th birthday since I had cancer.

As it turned out, I had a good kind of cancer, the kind that can be cured. (Knock on wood. Po po po. Masses of salt over the shoulder.) The kind for which the cure is not a walk in the park, or even a walk through the hospital because, post-surgery, you end up swallowing so much radioactive iodine that you can’t hold your kids or get too close to anyone who ever wants to get pregnant. (A fact graciously shared with me from across the room by a nurse who wanted to get pregnant.)

It is also a cure that can make you feel so sick that you become a lifelong advocate of the medical marijuana that made you stop feeling sick. Indeed, you run around threatening to grow the stuff behind your house when the feds start manhandling California’s pot dispensaries. (In case anyone is planning to come visit, I don’t. I have a black thumb and a soft spot for our many, rose-eating gophers.)

But here I am.

With a very clear memory of when I didn’t think I’d be here. When a thoughtless and possibly evil doctor gave me some outdated articles (that turned out to have no relation whatsoever to my illness or to my prognosis) that seemed to suggest that I wouldn’t be around to raise my kids.

I don’t think about that much. But on my birthday, I do.

Here I am.

It was a very happy birthday.

18 comments:

  1. Happy Birthday, Ann! I'm glad you're here too :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Happy Birthday, Anne. And many more.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Happy Birthday and HAPPY BIRTHDAY Anne.I love your post.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I didn't know, of course. Thank you so much for writing this, to help us treat every day like a birthday. xo

    ReplyDelete
  5. God blessed you with health and blessed us with you!

    ReplyDelete
  6. More thanks. I am so moved by these comments.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I am a 35 year cancer survivor and love every day, even though I have to go to the doctor every year for a check up to make sure nothing else has cropped up (Melanoma). Yes, I preach to those not willing to hear about the dangers of staying out in the sun. As for those who choose tanning booths, I give up. Congratulations, may you have many more years!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've just read through again with the arrival of a new comment & I wanted to respond to you directly. Thirty-five years is inspiring. I'm so glad you posted.
      Ann

      Delete
  8. Just read this, Ann, and found it very moving. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thank you Liz and Kit. I am deeply touched.

    ReplyDelete
  10. This post is a little old now, but it's the first time I saw it. Thanks so much for sharing - very moving

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thank you, Melissa. It's taken me a long time to start talking about this.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Look for the "Walk for a Cure" in your area. I think it is in May or June. There may be something on the American Cancer Society Website. Their is nothing like wearing the Survivor t-shirt and the number of years on your back and it raises money for cancer cures. All sorts of cancer. And everyone has fun while doing it.

    ReplyDelete
  13. OK, so I just found your site through Lori's "read, Write, Repeat! site and noticed this post. I too am a survivor, and I want to send you a 'cyber hug' as I know what you went through. I had ATC therapy, lost 60 lbs (no, I wasn't heavy) and feel your pain. But it is my second birthday since my therapy (coming up on third!) and you give me hope. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Leiah,
      Thank you so much for writing! Cyber hugs to you, too. Three years out and sixty pounds later must be so tough, but I see the picture of you curled up on your sofa writing, with your little dog nestled on your lap and that intense look on your face, and you're HERE. And I promise, years later, it's a grievous disruption, something that stopped you in your tracks but not the new definition. (Although, I realize, mentally throwing more salt over my shoulder and seriously contemplating getting off my sofa so I can knock on some wood, it's still kind of there on the edge of my consciousness.) Please live with that hope and the solidarity of everyone else who's been through it and come out the other side.
      Love,
      Ann

      Delete