Birthdays . . .

30 Nov

Yesterday was my birthday. I had lots of things swirling through my head yesterday. Birthdays are kind of weird for me now. Mostly I am just grateful to have had yet another birthday and extremely grateful to have one that is cancerfree.

This same time in 2008 I was sick, but, didn’t know it yet. Well, that isn’t quite true. I knew something was wrong. I just didn’t know that it was cancer. I was tired all of the time. My body ached. I had intense night sweats. I was told by my doctor that these symptoms probably meant that I was going into early menopause. It never occurred to me or to my doctor that it was in fact breast cancer. But, a few months later I would have a mammogram come back with something suspicious and then everything suddenly made sense – I instantly knew why I was so incredibly tired all of the time.

Marahon shoes

Fast forward through a couple of years (wish I could have . . . ha, ha, ha) of cancer treatment and multiple surgeries (months of chemo, followed by a bi-lateral mastectomy, followed by multiple hospitalizations for post-surgery infections, 6 weeks of radiation, a year of Herceptin infusions, months of daily nurse visits to administer IV antibiotics for the post surgery infections, two reconstructive surgeries – still one more of those to go – lots of trips to the ER and probably a few other things I can’t remember) and here I am . . . on the other side of it all. Or so it seems.

So, this is a birthday that I did not know if I would have. Of course we never know what tomorrow will bring. But, having clawed away through most of that first year post diagnosis to be here, it is really quite something to still be here.

Last year on my birthday I was recovering from surgery. The preceding birthday I was going through radiation treatment (had finished chemo and made it through the first surgery a few months earlier) but, still had two more surgeries and half a year of Herceptin infusions ahead. When I look back on the last two birthdays it is amazing to me that I am as well now as I am.

I don’t know how many more I will have, no one knows how many birthdays they will have. But, it is really something to be here in this way today. Last year was tough, the year before was kind of almost not really bearable. In fact, I remember wondering if I would have another Thanksgiving, another Christmas . . . you get my drift.

Since being diagnosed in 2009 I have met and become friends with many cancer patients. I have lost friends to the same disease that I have, at least for now, somehow managed to survive. It doesn’t make any sense. And, I am well aware of the fact that it could come back any day and simply strike me down. That is cancer: it comes, and it it always goes . . . it is just a matter of whether it takes you with it or not (and I mean that both literally and figuratively).

Last February I stood and watched a friend of mine cross the finish line of a half marathon. I remember how difficult it was for me (not even one year ago today) to simply stand there for 20 minutes waiting to see my friend cross the finish line. I was still so tired and weak. I remember hanging onto a chain link fence for support and wondering if I would make it through (kind of the way cancer treatment and recovery is like . . . hanging on and wondering if you will make it through). I promised myself last year that I would be crossing that same finish line myself some day.

So tomorrow I am buying a new pair of running shoes (compliments of my parents – their birthday present to me). I have ten weeks to get myself, and my new shoes, ready for a half marathon. I fully expect to walk a significant part (if not all) of this “run” but, I don’t care. I just want to get through the 13.1 miles and cross that finish line. Wish me luck 🙂

I am very thankful for this birthday. And, I am so incredibly thankful for my family and friends – without whom I would surely not be here in the way that I am.

Love and peace,



8 Responses to “Birthdays . . .”

  1. Stacey November 30, 2011 at 10:53 AM #

    Lisa, Happy, happy birthday! I totally get what you’re saying. My diagnosis came 5 days before my milestone 45th birthday. Happy birthday to me. I, also wondered if I’d feel good about birthdays ever again, but, like you, I find myself in a different place now, a better place. Still weird though. Good luck with your training! I’m inspired by your commitment to the half marathon. It must feel good to have that to aspire to and kick cancer out the door while doing it. Keep us posted!

    • cancerfree2b November 30, 2011 at 11:26 AM #

      Thank Stacey!

      Birthdays are so bizarre for me now. I have never disliked birthdays or been one to hate getting a year older. But, now it definitely takes on a different meaning to have another birthday. It is unbelievable to me that two years ago I was barely getting around and that one year ago I barely had the stamina to stand 20 minutes straight. Completely bizarre.

      I still feel, as I did a year ago and two years ago, that everyday is me clawing my way through the day to get whatever it is that I intend to get done, done. It is just that now I actually get through a long work day, still go out afterwards or play in my band . . . I didn’t really get that down in my blog post . . . that I am able to do so much more now than I could a year ago, even six months ago. So, that is really something. And, yet, as I type this reply to you, my arm is really painful, fingers hurt (lymphedema I guess). I am not sure how all that is going to work out with running a 1/2 marathon, but, I will figure it out I guess 🙂

      (When I run, my arm gets pretty sore. Oh well. I don’t intend to make half marathons a weekly habit or anything, I just want to do this one in particular because it is right around the three year mark for me and . . . because last year I could not have been farther away from doing it).

      Thank you for the birthday wishes and for the encouragement. 🙂

      All the best,

  2. Beth L. Gainer November 30, 2011 at 1:21 PM #


    Happy, happy birthday to you! Unfortunately, cancer has a way of making us appreciate our birthdays more. I marvel at the birthdays I’ve accomplished. You have been through hell. Good for you to keep working on staying healthy. That’s all of us can ever do; you are right — we don’t know what tomorrow brings. Life is promised to no one.

    • cancerfree2b November 30, 2011 at 3:04 PM #

      Hi Beth!

      Thank you for the birthday wishes! Yes, cancer does have a way of changing your perspective. I am just glad to be this distance out. I don’t know if I will be able to do the run, but, I am going to try to do it. I see my oncologist for a 5 month follow up on February 9th. I want to be able to tell her I finished a half marathon. She has told me that one of the best things I can do to help prevent a recurrence is to exercise and maintain the lowest healthy body weight possible. So, hopefully the running will improve all of that. I am really starting from scratch here though, as I haven’t run in a while. Oops 🙂 Oh well, it has to be easier than chemo, right?

      Thank you for commenting on my post!

      All the best to you,


  3. Sally Peck November 30, 2011 at 1:23 PM #

    Congratulations, Lisa, on your birthday and for your courage and determination to do a half marathon! Wow, I sure hope you can, but whatever part you do will be great, and such improvement. I’m just sorry you have to do it with pain.
    Blessings, peace and love.

    • cancerfree2b November 30, 2011 at 3:07 PM #

      Dear Aunt Sally,

      Thank you for the encouragement. I think I am a bit crazy thinking I can do this, but, what the heck. I am going to do whatever part of it I can and consider that something positive. But, I would really love to be able to tell my oncologist (I have an appointment with her a few days after the half marathon) that I completed it. I know she would be thrilled. Exercise and dropping weight is really important for me as it helps reduce the risk of recurrence. So, it is something I have to do. The pain is getting better. Walking is a lot easier than running in that regard, so I may walk more than anything else.

      I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and I hope you are doing great. I miss you and love you!


  4. nancyspoint December 5, 2011 at 7:47 AM #

    Cancer does have a way of changing how we look at birthdays doesn’t it? Now I think getting older is really awesome! Well, maybe that’s a stretch, but you know what I mean! Good for you for taking on a half-marathon. And like you said, it doesn’t matter if you walk or run. I did a 10k last May and there really was something special about crossing that finish line. I’ll probably do it again just to remind myself that I can. Anyway, happy happy birthday!

  5. The Accidental Amazon December 6, 2011 at 8:07 PM #

    Post-cancer birthdays are extra special, although somewhat bittersweet, aren’t they? Good for you to have a plan to put those running shoes to work! Having struggled with long-term post-treatment fatigue, I’m just so glad that this year, I’ve finally become more vertical!! Each one of us has different finish lines now. It almost doesn’t matter what they are. It just feels so good to reach them.


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