On the eve of my 40th birthday

I few years ago I started thinking about how I would like to celebrate my 40th birthday. Having small children I didn’t think about planning any elaborate party (that’s not my style) but I did think about how great it would be to be on a beach somewhere. To be more specific I thought about how great it would be to be fit on a beach somewhere – you know, Fit and Forty? Maybe in a bikini if I could whittle down that baby belly.

But every time I would ramp up my exercising I would come down with a six week cold that often resulted in injured and possibly broken ribs. Still, I would heal, eventually, and try to start up again. Do a month of yoga, feel great, and then get sick. Fit and Forty seemed like a good goal for so many reasons – whether I made it to the beach or not. (In fact, I traded in the dream of the beach for a extended family trip to Ireland this summer but that won’t be happening either.)

In none of my imaginings did I dream I would have stage four breast cancer and be going through chemotherapy. Later today I will probably shave my head because all my hair is falling out and tomorrow, on my birthday, I will try to just be happy to be here with my family.

No beach. No bikini. No big deal.

It’s hard sometimes, right now, these early days of my diagnosis where there is still so much I don’t understand about my disease. Christmas day was hard this year as I sat listening to my family members talk and the girls and their cousins run around playing. I wondered: how many more of these do I get? When it’s my grandchildren running around playing on Christmas who will be here? A stepmother perhaps? And what if something happens to the Mister and these girls are left without any parents? No offense world but I can’t think of anyone I want to raise these girls other than me.

ChristmasGirls2015I had to fight hard to keep the panic and anxiety at bay and just try and be in the moment. But sometimes it is hard not to be selfish and want all the moments for myself.

So I guess that is going to be one of my biggest challenges this year: living in the moment. I’ve never been good at it – always looking forward to some intangible “thing” in the future. But now I have so much work to do to heal this body, I have to step back from all the random nothingness that fills my days (internet surfing, reading crap on my phone) and focus on getting stronger and making my time on this earth last as long as possible for myself, my Mister and my girls.

So, as Fionnuala, aged three, once succinctly told her older sister: “shut-up the crying!” Which is going to be one of my new mantras. Not that I can’t cry, but it’s time for the pity party to end and for me to get down to the business of fixing this body the best way I can. And reading and writing and not making every single conversation be about cancer (although many still will be, I process through writing and always have).

Who knows, maybe next year for my birthday I will be on a beach. I’m sure no matter what I will be grateful to just be here, in the moment.

 

  2 Replies to “On the eve of my 40th birthday”

  1. Amy
    December 31, 2015 at 10:02 pm

    You are such an incredible writer Melanie!!! I am so mad- on your behalf- that this is happening. I do not pity you, I feel anger for you- for the unfairness of it all. I am mad that I cannot fix it or make it better for you – and- I share the vulnerability that comes with the realization (made after a short 5 months of illness) that, really, we are all on borrowed time. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to be a small part of your journey. Thank you for letting us in. Thank you for sharing the raw truth of your heart and about your experiences. Thank you for teaching me so much through this offering of your writing. Thank you for waking me up- again- and again-with your words- to the sacredness of this moment- beach or no beach, forty and fit or resting and sick, hair or no hair….your writing brings me back to preciousness of life- even, maybe especially, when it does not look the way we had hoped for it to look. Your story, your words bring me back to here. now. this moment.just.as.it.is.

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