The American Cancer Society has a campaign called www.morebirthdays.com fighting for a world with less cancer and more birthdays. When I first heard about that promotion, before my own diagnosis of Stage 3 Breast Cancer, I thought maybe it was a little silly and a little hokey. I am sure you have seen the commercials of celebrities like Jennifer Hudson and Celine Dion singing “Happy Birthday”. Now I see the wisdom in the campaign as I reflect on how birthdays have changed for me.
Recently, I celebrated my first birthday post-treatment. Pre-cancer I dreaded birthdays because of being a year older and everything that goes along with that experience. No longer am I ashamed of my age and trying to reduce it by a few years. Everyday is a birthday to me.
Constant tears came to my eyes on my birthday and even a few sobs as I thanked God for the gift of life. Gratitude truly overwhelmed me for how far I have come, for all those who helped me, and for being alive. That emotion came from the depth of my soul and rose so strongly that it just came out my eyes like a fountain that had no where else to go.
Surprisingly enough, I got an email on my birthday from a breast cancer patient who is 34 but feels 74. She was wondering if she will ever feel her real age again. I assured her she will, but it will take time to slowly return to her actual age. Finally, I am back to feeling my age. What an amazing thing to feel 30 years younger than I did just a few short months ago. I have found the fountain of youth!! And my sympathy and compassion for older people has increased tenfold because I lived in my 80s for many, many months before returning to the wonderful 50s.
If you are a cancer patient going through active treatment, it does get so much better. You may feel like dying today as you struggle your way through chemo. That’s okay, but keep fighting. There is so much hope. Perhaps you feel like giving up because you don’t have any more strength or courage to muster. Keep going. You can do it. Just get through this hour and this day. Don’t let anyone tell you there isn’t hope. Next year will be so much better! Keep remembering that and use that mantra to help you get through!
And if you have a family member or friend who is a cancer patient or cancer survivor and celebrating a birthday, send them an e-card from www.morebirthdays.com It will be the most meaningful thing you can do! And while you are at it, consider making a contribution to the American Cancer Society.