“i can't believe you tell people your age,”my friend commented.
hey, i don't mind. really. in fact, i love my age, because every single birthday means more than just presents and chocolate cake.the day i heard the word“cancer”spoken by my doctor, my life turned upside down.
“i have a test on monday,”i said foolishly, thinking that the doctor would postpone surgery so i could ace1 my humanities test. what i didn't realize is that i was preparing for the biggest test of my life.
within hours i discovered that i did have cancer. it had spread to my lymph nodes2. i learned at 32 years of age to face mortality3. every time the doctors entered my room, they walked in with bad news and one more specialist. one white coat meant cancer. two white coats meant chemo4. three meant radiation. four meant detection of another possible tumor 5.
at one point five doctors stood around my bed. it seemed fitting because the statistics dropped to a 10% chance of surviving five years. one doctor for each year i might live.
there were a multitude of 6 reasons to stick around 7a husband of 12 years that i loved a whole lot and three beautiful children that were clueless to the plight8 of their mom and dad, but who gave me daily strength in their innocent love and handmade gifts that hung on the hospital wall.
to this day, i still have a crayon picture of me resting in bed, with a large head and larger lips, with a thermometer 1 sticking out of my mouth. the words,“get well so u can com home”was my mantra2.
i'm thankful for cancer in many ways. does that sound crazy? i wouldn't wish it on anybody and i don't want to go through it again, but it was a teacher. it helped me to treasure every single day. it forced me to prioritize3 my life. things that were once important seemed foolish. it pushed me off the rolling wheel this society calls sacred and let me pursue the desires of my heart, instead of my wallet. it gave me the ability to see life as fragile, not one day promised. it allowed me to treasure my three beautiful children, who sometimes brought heartache along with joy as they grew up, who are all now in college and can now spell beautifully.
when i hit my 5th year of survival, i left my job to write full time. i decided not to write one more word about anything that didn't matter to me. it was a step of faith, but it made perfect sense. cancer taught me not to let the opportunities of your heart pass you by because we are not promised“one day”or“someday.”on my 40th birthday, i rode gocarts4 with 30 of my closest friends to celebrate. the numbers 40 hanging across the wall were a beautiful sight.
i celebrated my 10th year of survival on a boat in the amazon in the rainforest of brazil. i sat on the top level and watched the sun rise and from somewhere so deep inside, i thanked god for the opportunity to experience life through facing death.
you see, life has become a series of celebrations. last month, i celebrated my 13th year of survival and embraced my 44th birthday. next month, richard and i will celebrate our 24th anniversary. leslie, my oldest, turned 21 last year. my twins are 20. all young adults now, all running after their own dreams, because my bout1 with cancer taught them too.i look at my friend and answer her question. do i mind telling my age? absolutely not. i'll shout it from the rooftops2. i'm 44! i'm thankful for all 10 gray hairs.
when i look in the mirror and notice the small lines appearing around my mouth and eyes, i don't call them wrinkles. i call them opportunities.
every line was placed there by a smile that creased my facean experience, large or small, that came from living this gift called life.(by t. suzanne eller )
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