People often ask me how life has changed since being diagnosed with stage IV cancer. On bad days, the question brings tears to my eyes. On good days, though, I acknowledge that cancer changes the outlook on many aspects of life.
Take birthdays, for instance.
This week, I’ll officially enter my upper-40s. Since the cancer diagnosis, I’ve become more attuned to the many protests we lodge against the aging process. The popularity of botox injections and coloring hair to hide the gray, to name just two visible protests, suggest we’re not too keen on showing the world we’re actually getting older. We want to look young, feel young, stay young. And then birthdays come around once a year and insist that we acknowledge we’re getting older.
Of course there are some real costs to growing old. My family spent Thanksgiving with my almost-94-year-old Grandmother, who—despite all the health challenges that come with being in your mid-90s—is still going strong. But getting in and out of chairs is a challenge. Walking is a challenge. Hearing others talk in a noisy room is a challenge. Those challenges add up. They take their toll.
Being in your upper 40s, however, is significantly different than being in your mid-90s. And living with cancer in my soon-to-be upper 40s leads me to embrace and celebrate birthdays as never before. I thank God I’m alive to experience birthday 46. Praise be that my children are growing older and I’m here to witness it. Hallelujah that my husband’s turning (a much-younger) 45 next month and I can celebrate with him. These days my birthday—and the birthday of others I love—is cause for gratitude for the continuing gift of life. That we’re around to grow older is worth celebrating, at least once a year.
Recently the American Cancer Society launched a campaign called More Birthdays where they ask others to join them in creating a world with less cancer and more birthdays. I’m all in.
So here’s to more birthdays: to mine, to yours, and to everyone else’s.