It doesn’t seem possible that just 7 years ago I never would have dreamed of reaching this birthday. I wasn’t sure then if I’d reach 18!
Friday, I was reminded of my birthday by a few things…the first was my mom asking me what my plans were and what I wanted. Mom, I’m not sure on either, still!
The second was a doctor appointment to start the day. I’ve been feeling really tired, and y’all know in the cancer-verse that can be really worrying. I’ve been through enough to know that I really just wanted a CBC panel to see where my counts where, but ya I can’t really just tell a doctor that…the appointment brought the reality of cancer back to me.
After I got home, I decided to be an adult and made several other doctor appointments I’ve been putting off. One was a phone call to a doctor who specializes in paralyzed diaphragms and reactivating them. My pulmonologist told me about him last fall (when I found out I have one paralyzed diaphragm) and I finally called. His nurse was talking to me about all the different tests and related items, when she asked for my birthday. 1994. “Wow! You’re so young!” she almost reflexively said.
Yeah. I’m young. I’m going to be 25.
I’ve dealt with so much in my life that I feel like I’m 100. I’ve actively faced the possibility of dying at least 3 times from cancer/health stuff. I live with a few diagnosed long-term illnesses and could probably be diagnosed with several others. Getting out of bed in the morning is a struggle as I deal with fatigue and the pain in my joints worthy of any octogenarian. I can’t keep up with people even a decade older than me. Right now, my shoulders and arms and ribs are aching from water tubing I did two days ago. I knew my body well enough not to attempt any further water sports like all the others around me, but I’m still paying for the few runs I enjoyed.
I don’t know any of my siblings’ phone numbers by heart, but I can spit out the number from oncology plus a few extensions anytime. At least once a week I get so tired and discouraged from dealing with the long-term effects and the after-cancer-reality.
But guess what.
I’m going to be 25.
I’ve faced death three times and lived.
I got out of bed this morning.
I am working a full-time job.
I went out on a boat, and I did something I’d never done before.
I have a whole new cancer family I would never have had otherwise. I’m here. And I’m living my life.
This Thursday I’m speaking at my Alma Matter, for their incoming freshman leadership summit. I remember when I went to that same event, seven years ago. I had finished chemo three weeks prior, and finished radiation that same week. My parents wanted to take me, but I wanted to begin college on my own like the cancer muggles. They allowed a family friend also starting in engineering with me to take me instead. At some point in the program we broke into small groups to talk about world problems and how we as students could begin changing the world. I was bald and pitched my little team the issue of AYA (adolescent and young adult) cancer. I remember one team member saying that’s the topic we should present, as I had a real-life story that would add credibility to our presentation.
We advanced through the elimination rounds to be one of the final four groups to present to the entire staff and students. I opened with a 30-second pitch on my story and how we needed to raise awareness in this age group. Seven years later, I think I’ve contributed to that. I’ve been privileged to be a resource for several individuals facing cancer and college. I’ve been able to speak at events at school and in the community.
I was even on the cover of this magazine! And in just two days, I’m going to share my story again with a room full of freshman who have the potential to change the world through their efforts whether that be advocacy, support, or research for a cure.
When I relapsed, my dad claimed the promise from Jeremiah 29:11 for me- hope and a future. I have that written on a painting I painted with The Gathering Place. This life I’ve been given is crazy hard. I’m guilty of wishing so often that it were just a little bit easier. That every single thing I do every day isn’t such a struggle. But I’ve been given this life. I have a future. And I’m so grateful for it. I heard a song on the radio this evening…
Your promise still stands // Great is Your faithfulness // I’m still in Your hands // This is my confidence// You’ve never failed me yet //I’ve seen You move, come move the mountains // And I believe, I’ll see You do it again // You made a way, where there was no way // And I believe, I’ll see You do it again
I don’t know if I’ll celebrate a 30th, 40th, 75th, or 80th birthday. But I know I’m celebrating this one. God’s brought me this far, and He hasn’t failed me yet.