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Friday, October 4, 2013

Happy ReBirthday to Me, I'll be 5 Years Leukemia Free

This coming Monday is October 7th. When people would ask me when my birthday was, depending on the day I would answer one of two ways. Cinco De Mayo- May 5th or my Re-Birthday October 7th. It would just depend on the day because a lot of the time I didn't want to acknowledge my real birthday considering I relapsed twice on it, to the day. When it comes to birthdays there are the big milestone birthdays- 13-16-18-19(in Canada)-20-21(In the Us)-25-30-40. Well when it comes to your Re-Birthday, 5 is the big one. 5 years post transplant and you're considered "cured". This Monday is my 5th rebirthday and now I can't really be excited because I'm fighting a different kind of cancer.

I've been dreaming of this birthday since I was 16, since the very first time I was diagnosed with Leukemia. Dreaming of the day I could say
"I've finally hit 5 years I'm technically cured!"
I kept relapsing at 2 years so I never got the opportunity to celebrate it. Now, ten years later from my initial diagnosis of cancer and I'm four days away...FINALLY! I should be ecstatic, I should be thrilled, but I'm... crushed. Dreaming of this birthday I had pictured the sweet 16 I never got, or the 21st, I barely got. For my 21st birthday, I spent it with one of my best friends in a town I'd never been to before with people I was meeting for the first time. All because I was freshly single from a bad breakup and he got to keep all the friends back home. God Bless J, and her roommates who took me in and gave me an amazing 21st. I had an amazing time, I really did. Still, it was a lonely one. I got to spend it with J, but I missed my friends back home too. Wishing I had all the people I loved and cared about and that they were as excited about something as I was for something that meant a lot to me. I had J, my best friend since the 3rd grade, and honestly with out her, I can't imagine what I would have done. She was the only one who made me feel like she cared. The only one! Plus her roommates were Awesome!

Some people say Birthdays are not a big deal, whatever its another year... but I resent that. Its another year of life, that you are being blessed with to live. You shouldn't only celebrate your own, you should celebrate those of the people you care about, because they too are being blessed with another year to live. Oprah once said something along the lines of 'Celebrating your birthdays are important because if you don't, one day you'll wake up and be 50 and wonder where the time went.'

Expectation leads to disappointment. So I've really lowered my expectations as far as birthdays come and men too, but thats a whole other blog post. I find them to be the loneliest times of the year. This past birthday was my big 25, and honestly, although I had the best time, there was a constant reminder how certain friends, are really just surface friends. I spent it with my Dad and his girlfriend, work friends (because they were working) and just a few other close friends. One whom I had just met a few months earlier. One who was a friend from school, who is just the BEST! A lot of my new friends as far as the customers and regulars from work were there too, but they would have been at the bar regardless. My point, if you were to ask me to make a list of my closest friends, not a single one was there. Yes some of them had very good excuses. Some live far away. Some had other commitments. Some- I wasn't able to make theirs and it goes both ways. But it doesn't change the fact that it was... lonely. If you look at the pictures, or were there you're probably thinking
"Umm it seemed like you had a pretty good time to me?"
I did, don't get me wrong, but that's because I was tipsy, ok slightly inebriated, the people that were there, really stepped up for barely knowing me, and one of my best qualities is I can have fun anywhere. A situation is what you make of it, and although I was hurt, I wasn't going to let that ruin my night, so I made it awesome!

So dreaming of my 5th Rebirthday, because really its the biggest milestone I have yet, I have no expectations. I had such high hopes for this day. I wanted my mom AND dad there. I wanted friends who were from out of town to come, no excuses, (realistically though I understood if they were further than a few hours away). I wanted family (Well really just a few cousins and one cool aunt.) My Grandmother (for the record, I only have one- Funk Master T or Grandmas Tiny). My sister. I wanted all the people who had helped me pull through all the bull$#!% of the three bouts with leukemia. Heck if I could have invited some of the medical personnel from CHOP I would have. I wanted it to be a celebration, not just about me, but about life. About people who support each other, and love each other. My donor, Frank, who is a god given angel. I wanted a big cake, and not just a whatever cake but an actual carrot cake with really pretty decorations... i.e. Britney maybe lol. There was one birthday I was slightly hurt because all I wanted was a carrot cake but that detail had been overlooked, not important.

Maybe this is why I want to be an event planner so bad. So I can throw the parties for people and make sure they're wonderful in every aspect. I can't control the people who go or how they act, but I damn well can make sure everything else is perfect.

I don't want people to think that I've never had a good birthday, real or Rebirthday, because some have been AMAZING! I had one in Kingston I'll never forget. I had two dresses for it. One for dinner with the girls and the other for the bar. It was this white strapless dress and I had so much fun I couldn't even handle it. When I look back, that was one of the best. My Third Rebirthday was pretty great too!

There was another one, I think it was my 20th. It was at my cottage and I had made a beer pong table that was ridiculous. Everyone one of my Canadian friends that I loved and cared about was there. It was so much fun. My school friends, my cottage friends, my family friends- it was right after we had found out I relapsed the second time. It was my birthday/going away party. I felt so loved and it was the perfect time because I was devastated I was sick again. But for that night, I didn't feel sick. I didn't think about the terror that was upon me, or the fact that my summer wasn't going to happen, I felt loved and had so much fun with people I cared so much about!

These birthdays arn't about the presents they're about the presence. The presence of love and the people you care about and the reciprocation, them showing they care and love you too. That's why I HATE Christmas and love Thanksgiving. Think about it, its the same holiday, minus the presents and therefore the pressure. You're with your family, you eat Turkey and you watch football. Same concept, minus the greed.

So where does this leave me and my bday. I could look at this from the angle of a 8 year old child being whiney about not getting a birthday party. But thats not whats happening here, and if anyone thinks it is, they don't appreciate what I've been through and how big this is for me or anyone like me having gone through a similar situation.

I've had leukemia THREE times. I've lost my hair, I've ingested toxic chemicals to basically kill me to bring me back to life with the bone marrow of a stranger. I've missed out on A LOT. I think I'm allowed to get excited over the fact that I'm about to be 5 years leukemia free.

However, with that being said, its kind of hard. I'm stuck in New Jersey and most of my friends and family are in Canada. Also, even if I wanted to celebrate, I have the energy level of a rock. I don't know if I could eat carrot cake or would even enjoy it for that matter since food is my enemy. (Except Brio, for some reason their chopped salad and penne bolognese has been something my stomach can handle... weird.) How am I supposed to celebrate a milestone that is about being Cancer Free when I'm battling a different type of cancer. Now I've never totally understand the proper context for this word, but I'm pretty sure this is exactly what Irony is. Celebrating being cancer free for one type of cancer but having another.

So this makes me feel like this milestone is obsolete. Now, I'm just going to have to wait another 5 years to celebrate being pooter cancer free. I've missed out on enough in my life, I'm sure I can handle something else I've been excited about.
So my take away for this. Celebrate your birthdays, and those of the people you care about. You're celebrating life. It doesn't have to and shouldn't be about the presents but the Presence. For me, I'll be watching the voice on Monday night with my mom and sis, and I'm excited about that. Because although there will be no hoopla, I'm 5 years past what was literally a torturous part of my life. Moving away from that to move towards the life I'm ready to start living.

15 comments:

  1. I don't know why there aren't more posts to your blog Courtney - it's a great read! Perhaps people just e-mail directly. Anyway, ... Happy Re-Birthday! It's kind of funny but my re-birthday is the day I was diagnosed with cancer. To me, that was the first day of my "new" life. (It was in October too.) Maybe when I get to the 5 year mark I'll have another re-birthday. Keep writing and take care.

    John in Peterborough

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  2. Happy Re Birthday. Reading your blog helps me to see life as it should be. I've been taking my family for granted & from now on will celebrate those important days that seem to slip by. Especially Thanks Giving. I love reading your blog & wish you strength everyday through your journey.
    Jane

    ReplyDelete
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