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A Birthday and An Uninvited “Guest”

Have you ever had a party and one of your guests hung around too long? Or worse yet, have you ever had a party and someone you had not invited or wanted to attend showed up?

Maybe this is a bad analogy, but…

Every year, even after I became an adult, my mother would start asking me sometime in January, “Nancy, when would you like to celebrate your birthday this year?”

Next to Christmas, family birthdays came next in the important occasions to celebrate category for my mother. Most years, I traveled home to my parents’ house to celebrate mine. I’m sure there were a few years when traveling in February was quite hazardous, but usually I managed to make it sometime around my birthday.

February 1, 2004 was no different except for the fact my parents were the ones traveling to my house that day to celebrate my forty-somethingish birthday. They didn’t come. Instead, my mother called me early that morning to tell me she had discovered a lump in her breast.

That was the beginning of her cancer experience and therefore, the beginning of mine as well.

The uninvited “guest” to my birthday party had arrived. I didn’t know it at the time, but that “guest” was here to stay.

It seems ironic that cancer slithered into my mother’s life, and therefore into mine, on my birthday. I have often thought about this, irrationally concluding cancer was trying to make some kind of statement to me back then, and I just didn’t hear it. Maybe it was an omen, and I missed it.

Of course, such thoughts are ridiculous, but cancer creates conditions in the mind making it ripe for ridiculous thoughts to formulate and grow. Just ask anyone you know who has been diagnosed with cancer. They will undoubtedly agree, cancer messes with the mind too, at least some of the time.

Cancer cannot plot against us. I did not have a crystal ball allowing me to look into my future. And even if I had, would I have wanted to look? Would I have wanted to know what was in store for me a couple years down the road? Maybe. Maybe not.

Another thing that sticks in my mind about that particular birthday, is hearing my mother say, “Nancy, I’m so sorry you will have to remember this every year on your birthday from now on.”

Mothers like to fix things, not be the source of unsolvable problems. She felt guilty that my birthday was forever tarnished, and in her eyes, she had been the one to tarnish it.

Well, I do think about that birthday every year now. I think about the uninvited guest intruder that showed up and never went away. I think about a lot of things. How could I not?

You might think remembering all this stuff only makes me sad, but you’d be wrong. Remembering that birthday in some ways makes me feel even more connected to my mother. It also makes me miss her all the more.

Remembering all the birthdays we celebrated through the years, mine and those of other family members as well, makes me feel really good. We got to do a lot of celebrating together. Not everybody gets to do that.

This year, even more than other years, I am delighted (well, okay delighted is a stretch, but you get my point) to be getting older. I look forward to more birthdays. Each one will present me with the opportunity to embrace another new year, hopefully rich with more celebrations.

That uninvited intruder is still lurking around, but I push it away from my ‘party’ every chance I get.

Here’s to birthdays and lots of them.

Have you ever had an uninvited guest show up?

How do you feel about birthdays post cancer?

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A #birthday & an uninvited "guest" #cancer #breastcancer #cancersucks


Wednesday 3rd of February 2021

Happy Birthday Nancy! I hope you did or will do something special for yourself! I always do......................of course, I don't need much to justify treating myself to something special. I believe you have the whole month to celebrate, so whoop it up, buy yourself something you want and not what you need, eat that decadent dessert, no, you don't need it, but you know you want it. You can always eat a salad before the dessert to reduce the guilt........ or not. You could always eat one the next day instead..............or not.......or just get a pizza And then try to look at your day as not having been tarnished by your memories, but of contributing to your "patina", the thing that makes you special, that shine that you have because of the darkness you have seen. I think your Mom would be proud of how you have helped so many people by sharing her story and yours and for just "being there" for people you have never met. Thank you as always for hearing all of our voices and validating our worries. I like your attitude about embracing a birthday, another year behind you and looking forward to another year enjoying the planet and people you love! So have a fantastic birthday month!


Thursday 4th of February 2021

Tarzangela, You say the nicest things. Thank you so much. Actually, just bought some ice cream for this weekend and a brownie mix for next weekend since it'll be Valentine's Day. So, I am taking your advice!


Tuesday 2nd of February 2016

Nancy, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you!

Cancer showed up without an invitation during Christmas for me. I don't like it that I have so many cancer associations (as you know, I lost my grandma on a January 2). There's no right time to get a cancer diagnosis, but I find it more difficult when it happens during special holidays. When we should all be celebrating. Christmas has not been the same for me for 18 years now. And this doesn't mean I am not living my life or letting cancer 'win'. I am a daughter who misses her mom and wants her back. I am so sorry you are dealing with cancer associations too.

Birthdays affect me differently now. I haven't built a family of my own so the older I get, the more I feel discouraged (thanks to the intruder!).

Wishing you many more healthy years, Nancy. xo


Tuesday 2nd of February 2016

Rebecca, There is no good time of course, but when special days are forever tarnished, it's extra hard. Wishing you many, many healthy years too. And I hope you do get to build that family if it's something you want to do. xo

Elizabeth J

Monday 2nd of February 2015

Happy Birthday, Nancy. And very many more! Cancer was my uninvited Christmas Eve guest. Later, although I got the call about the tests results a few days earlier, I was in my oncologist's office on my birthday, having recurrence and metastatic cancer explained to me. In the days between that call, and my birthday oncologist appointment, my first grandchild was born. I found a journal in my mother's things. Apparently, she had found her cancer just before Christmas, but did not tell anyone, not even my dad, until January, so she wouldn't spoil Christmas for the rest of us.


Monday 2nd of February 2015

Elizabeth, It's not surprising that your mom kept it quiet until after Christmas... Sorry you had that uninvited guest/intruder show up too. Lovely that your first grandchild was born in between appointments and ironic, too, somehow. Thank you for reading this oldie and for commenting too.


Sunday 2nd of February 2014

Hope your Birthday is wonderful. I don't remember what day I got the news. I do try to celebrate on the final day of radiation though.


Monday 3rd of February 2014

Betty, The reasons why we do or do not remember certain days/things are very personal too I guess. Good for you for celebrating your end of radiation day. What do you do to mark the day?


Saturday 1st of February 2014

Happy belated birthday Nancy! Funny, I was diagnosed in early April, 3 days before my husband 's birthday, almost 3 weeks before my son's and just over 3 weeks before mine. I started chemo in May, about 5 days before my other son's birthday. April and May have always been family birthday months for us.

That was a terrible time almost two years ago now. But cancer did not take away my happy times in that month forever nor will I let it. No way. Now, it's just a busy, celebratory happy month to look forward to. And it's going to stay that way!


Monday 3rd of February 2014

Lauren, I'm glad you haven't allowed cancer to take those celebratory months from you. Good for you! Thanks for reading and commenting.

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