Sunday, October 11, 2009


Yesterday, I put blue jeans on for the first time in months. It occurred to me as I was slipping them on, unfamiliarly pulling up the zipper. It's not that I avoid wearing jeans, or any kind of pants with zippers or buttons, for that matter, I just hadn't since my diagnosis. Realistically, I spend all of my time either at home or at the hospital, so there just hasn't been any reason to wear anything other than comfortable shorts or sweat pants. I don't think it's a good idea to try to impress anyone in the children's ward, so I've simply opted for comfort.

Yesterday was also my twenty-third birthday. All week, I was tentatively planning on having a few close friends over. Nothing crazy because I still have to worry about getting sick, and obviously it all depended on how I was feeling. My good sense told me that three days removed from chemo I would still be feeling badly, but it was my birthday, so despite my better judgment I held out hope for something miraculous.

Just as I had expected, getting up yesterday morning was rough. Waking up is usually the most nauseating part of the day, and as usual it took me a while to force myself out of bed. I always have this unfounded hope that if I lay around for a while, letting myself fall into and out of sleep, it will somehow be easier when I finally decide to get up. Of course, it never is.

Sometimes, my body will adjust as the day goes along and the nausea that plagues me in the morning will dissipate over the course of a few hours. I kept telling myself that yesterday would be one of those days, even though I woke up nauseous and the following hours were nauseating as well. But it was my birthday; it just had to be one of those days.

I went along with the plans to celebrate, because, after all, I really deserve it. If anyone deserves a birthday, I know it's me. And since I was too proud to postpone the party to a day that wasn't my birthday, I made a promise to myself that I was going to enjoy it regardless of how sick I felt.

I felt sick all day. It just never went away, and though I masked it with meds, it didn't seem to get much better, either. But my friends came over and I think they had a good time, and I swear I didn't complain once about feeling sick. I didn't force myself to party too hard, and by allowing the joyful surroundings of the day to sink in, they eventually conquered my psyche and in the end it was a good day. It obviously helped to have my closest friends around, but I'm convinced that maintaining an optimistic outlook eventually overcame my inevitable physical struggles.

Though the party lasted all day, I hardly made it until nightfall. With these meds I'm taking, there's just nothing I can do to keep myself from fading, and it always ends in a nap. Yesterday, I think I managed to keep my eyes open until the last of the guests had left. Still, it was an earlier night than I had hoped for, especially on my birthday.

As luck would have it, today has been a much easier day for me than yesterday was. It's usually around this day that I cross the hump and start to feel better, but I was just hoping that the big jump would come a day sooner this time.

Everyone knows that a birthday only lasts one day. Though I may feel better today, there are no guests, no celebration. Like most other things in life, I don't get a re-do. I'll have to wait an entire year to do that again. It's frustrating and it makes me sad. There's just no way around it.

I never get overly excited for birthdays or holidays, it's just not my nature. I don't crave presents or new, shiny things, and like I said it's just one day and it's always over before you know it. I've had homework and midterms on my birthday, and in college it always fell during the week before basketball started so nobody wanted to party too hard and put themselves at a disadvantage for hell week. (Hell week is the first week of practice, which involves two-a-days and some of the hardest conditioning of the entire season.)

So, I always temper my birthday expectations. This year was no different, because in addition to my usual temperance, this year I have cancer. I don't know for how long, but for now and for this year's birthday I do, and it's a pretty good reason to moderate my birthday expectations. Nowadays, I can pretty much always expect to feel crummy, and that's not going to change just because it's my birthday.

But, like any other birthday, it was one day long and it's over now. I'm a year older and the day has passed, so I can move on. Next year is a whole year away, and I know how quickly things can change, so there's no telling the conditions in which I'll find myself by then. If I stay dedicated to my recovery, then maybe next year I'll be able to set my expectations a little bit higher.

Overall, I would call yesterday a good day. I may not have felt well, but for the first time in a while I had a reason to put on jeans and a reason to celebrate. I also learned a lot about the power of positive thinking, and how despite the most unfortunate of circumstances, good people and some chocolate mousse cake can really go a long way towards having a good time.

I will continue to fight, and I truly believe that next year the only reason to throw up on my birthday will be if I drink too much.