This is the seventh birthday that’s come along since I was first diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian cancer. And believe me, I’m as surprised as anyone that I’ve made it this far.
Birthdays, and how we celebrate them, are individual to each of us. They are the one day each year when we acknowledge our debut into the world — crying, red-faced heaps of tissue and blood and teeny tiny parts that our parents couldn’t quite believe. Little blobs of nothing — of everything. Tidy packages of knowledge and feelings and desires waiting to bloom into whatever it is that we would someday become. And the beauty of it all is that no one knew. Not what we’d think, not how long we’d live, not whose lives we’d touch or the mark we would leave on the world.
But now we know. Part of it, at least. Or we think we do.
Each year when a parade of candles threatens to set the house aflame, we reassess. We judge our failures and praise our achievements and thank the Universe for our one and only precious life.
If we’re lucky.
I’ve said a thing or two about cancer over the years, but a recurring theme blazes into view each time I circle the sun, and that is how joyous and frightening it feels to live life so close to its surface. To fully experience and appreciate the tenuous grasp we have on our mere existence, and to see the world through that lens.
I would take back nothing I’ve learned in these last seven years, though I would gladly do without the cancer thanks very much. Though in truth, one bore the other. Cancer lets you circle the days on the calendar, not mark them off one by one. It reminds you that so much doesn’t matter a damn, and so little matters most of all.
Birthdays. A time to reflect, to consider who we are, and who we have yet to be.
The happiest of days.