Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Birthday Expectations

9/18/13  Birthday Expectations
First let me say thank you for all the wonderful birthday wishes and comments.  Here are some thoughts that I typed up on my birthday that I thought I would share. 

I wake up with no plans except a dental appointment which should actually count as negative points (no offense Dr. Trueb and staff).  I trusted it would all come together, but as the morning went on I had doubt.  I had a birthday text waiting for me upon rising (thank you Jan Turner-Davis) but nothing on Facebook.  Mom had a birthday card on the kitchen counter but she wasn’t home (or so I dramatized).  My dad, sister, and brother-in-law were all in Oregon.  

Unfortunately, I have to admit I expected more.  As the morning progressed I began to try to put together a plan of what to do.  I love to play BINGO but do it rarely and thought of going to the Indian casino an hour away but found out there was no BINGO tonight.  Mom kept saying, “Whatever you want to do, let me know.”  But not much was coming to mind.  Part of the issue was, I was low on energy.  I just spent the past 5 days traversing the states of Oregon and Washington for my niece’s college soccer team and sightseeing with my family.  I kept telling myself that I didn’t need anything to do ON my birthday, because I had a lovely day in Seattle the day before.  That should fulfill the birthday celebration, right? Well, for me it wasn’t.  By this time I had a couple of calls and emails and was being asked, what am I doing fun for my birthday and I had no good answer, other than a dental appointment. BAD!  The pressure set in to make it a FUN day.  

I contacted Jacqueline about going to Emeryville to hang out with her.  By the time I finished at the dentist, I didn’t feel like doing anything.  That appointment was enough to wipe me out.  A few other ideas floated by, but nothing took hold.  I resolved to being okay with doing nothing and just relaxing.  I have never been a huge Facebook person, but found today it was the perfect medicine to help me feel like I was spending my birthday with friends.  I posted about the meaning of birthdays on my blog and my FB page and the responses began to flow in.  

One response in particular excited me, it was from the gentleman who farms my land stating they were harvesting my grapes tonight and I could spend my birthday celebrating at the harvest with a glass of wine.  HOW PERFECT IS THIS!!!! In my excitement I quickly sent out an email and post via FB to invite others to join.  My grandiose mind quickly visualized many friends being able to attend with the last minute invite.  As I write this it is 30 minutes before the wine party start time and mom has put together a basket of goodies, we have several bottles of wine chilling and no one yet who RSVP’d they could attend.  I surrender to the outcome and pleasure in the excitement of what it could be rather than what it is. 

Despite the low attendance at the wine birthday fest (1 person, besides Jerry the farmer, Mom, and I) it was a lovely evening.  While waiting for the “crowd” to arrive I tinkered in my sister’s garden, fed her chickens and collected the eggs, cut a bouquet of Dahlia’s and enjoyed being in nature during the harvest.  Shortly into the evening, Jerry pointed to the sky.  The Harvest/Full moon was rising.  How perfect.  It was so beautiful and I felt joyfully satisfied.  It did turn out to be a perfect birthday.  I no longer take birthdays for granted and want each day to be special, but especially my birthday.  I appreciate all of you helping to make it great!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Birthdays bear different meanings for all of us, and present varying significance at various times in our lives.  When we are young, we usually look forward to our birthday and especially to the party and gifts.  Their are milestones in birthdays: reaching a 2 digit numbered age, becoming a teenager, at 16 to get our driver’s license, 21 to be legal, and then by the decades at 30, 40, 50...and for some 100.  During mid life the birthday may be more of a dread for some.  It seems after a certain age, though, there is a sense of accomplishment in reaching each birthday and the birthday becomes a celebration once again, even something to be proud of in making it so far in advance age.  
Since having cancer, I view birthdays differently, more similar to the advanced age person, as if each birthday is a huge accomplishment.  It no longer is taken for granted and truly becomes a day of celebration.  Although, each day after surviving cancer can be experienced as a day of celebration. Sadly, I used to dread my birthdays.  Partly, due to my high expectation of it needing to be an EXTRA special day.  In my 20’s, it was a huge reminder of still being single beyond the age that I thought I would marry.  Then after marrying, it became a reminder day that my biological clock was ticking and I had yet to have children.   In many ways, cancer changed my views of birthdays from dread, to yet another milestone.  
I sit today in an odd mood.  It’s my 42nd birthday.  At the point that I turned 39 I knew there was something terribly wrong with me, but didn’t know what.  Shortly, thereafter, I was diagnosed with cancer for the first time.  My 40th birthday was reason to celebrate in a colossal fashion for it being the 40th and for it being my first birthday post cancer/surgery/chemo.  My 41st birthday was challenging.  I worked that day and none of my co-workers even knew it was my birthday.  I experienced a fatigue that plagued my body so intensely that it was a struggle to even move the computer mouse at my desk.  Once home that night I had a meltdown and told my mom, “I’m pretty sure I have cancer again.”  Working in the medical field for years, one of the most common complaints is fatigue, but, for me, there is no other level of fatigue than what cancer brings to your body.  My 41st birthday was one of those days that just to exist was too much effort.  
Today, on my 42nd,  I am alive, healthy, and pretty well emotionally.  Part of me desires to have something fun and joyful to do.  Part of me is completely at peace with having nothing to do and to just BE!  I cherish the joy I see in everyday, including today.

“I have been born again and again and each time, I have found something to love.” Gordon Parks

I believe I have been born again and again throughout the milestones in my life.  I look forward to the new path taking place in me now as I allow the guidance of the next steps to be birthed.  Happy Birthday to all of you, and please see joy in something today as a birthday gift to me!

Dr. Oliver