Another Birthday, Another Decade & a Question for You

Another birthday has come and gone for me. I’ve now begun the next decade of my life. I won’t tell you which decade, but if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you probably know or could figure it out if you wanted to and I’m pretty sure no one cares that much to investigate, so my “secret’s” probably safe. Growing older is not something that bothers me much, well, not too much anyway. I fully realize how many young women and men in Cancer-land have not had or will not have the privilege of this thing we call aging. Old age, aging period, now that is a gift. Cancer no way.

It’s now been eleven years since cancer barged into my mother’s life and therefore into mine as well. Cancer made its grand entrance on my birthday no less. It’s a cruel reminder every year and just one more reason to hate the beast, cancer not my birthday. I should have called this post I wrote a while back, “the Uninvited Intruder” instead of the “Uninvited Guest”. That would be oh-so-much-more appropriate. I’ve thought about changing the title, but I haven’t edited old posts I’ve written much for some reason, but I’m not sure what that reason is.

Occasionally I read articles, blog posts, letters and such at various sites (it’s meant to be some sort of good mental exercise or something) in which the author writes to her/his younger self. In these kinds of writings you’re supposed to give that younger version of you some advice, tidbits of wisdom or whatever you want. I have started to write such a piece a few times and then stopped because the truth is; I have no idea what I would tell that girl I was. Not like it matters, but it is interesting to think about.

What would I say to her?

Would I let her in on the cancer secret, my cancer secret, ‘her’ cancer secret?

Keep in mind; in my case as a brca+ person, had I known at a younger age about this cancer thing, I could have possibly done things differently. So the answer for me is a bit more complex, or is it?

So my question to you, my dear readers, is this:

Cancer or no cancer, if you could have a chat with your younger self or write her/him a letter, what would you say?

If applicable, would you tell that young person (you) that cancer was in her/his future some day?

Is knowledge, granted in this case pretend knowledge, always a good thing?

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22 thoughts to “Another Birthday, Another Decade & a Question for You”

  1. Hi Nancy,

    First of all, happy, happy birthday and many more!! Yes, each birthday is a gift, and I think we in Cancerland appreciate that fact more than some others. I, too, have tried to write letters to my younger self, but I stop. I can never think what to tell my younger self. One day, I think I will write it as a blog post, but I have no idea when that will be. Truth is, I still haven’t figured life out yet (are we ever supposed to?).

    Would I tell her about cancer in her future? I don’t know. I think it would be too upsetting. I might say more general things like, you’ll need to be strong, you will discover many pitfalls in life. Not sure. When I was a teen, I was always optimistic about the future. Now, not as much.

    Thanks for posing that thought-provoking question.

    1. Beth, Thank you for the good wishes. And yes, sharing too much with our younger selves would be quite upsetting for ‘them’ and we wouldn’t listen anyway probably. Thanks for sharing thoughts on this make-believe situation/question.

  2. I love birthdays… and I wish you again, Happy Birthday, dear Nancy… I’ve read some of those articles myself and wondered the same. I’d probably say, let go of the ridiculous and hurt and anger, because very soon you’ll forget about it, so why give it so much attention and lose so many hours of your life with that stress. However, my younger self would never listen to that. I wouldn’t tell her she was going to get cancer, enough years have been devastated by that, why go back in time and ruin more. Much love, dear friend… here’s to your next decade!

    1. Carolyn, “Why go back in time and ruin more”… no kidding. You’re very wise. Bring on the next decade; I’m ready. Thank you for reading and commenting too. Much love back.

  3. Happy everyone’s unbirthday and Nancy’s decade birthday isn’t it amazing how ten or twenty years go by. My oldest will be turning 21 this year didn’t I just turn 21 well I guess so just 26 years ago. But after breast cancer i celebrate every day and every birthday with each of you. I remember when my son just turned one. What would I tell my younger self? I would not mention her future with the possibility of cancer? No way. Back then they told me I might never have kids. Wrong……six pregnancies and five live babies later…can’t trust all doctors predictions of the future. I would probably encourage her to take time to prepare delicious food for herself and loved ones. I’d tell her to keep dancing and listening to her favorite music. I’d tell her to keep playing her flute and to keep exercising inside and outside during any season and all weather. I’d encourage her to enjoy more of nature and to surround herself with amazing people who enjoy living life to the fullest. Her career outside the home would not define her. I’d encourage her to have the courage to be happy and get to know herself. I’d try to tell her not to take herself too seriously. And not to worry what other people think… her opinion of herself is all that matters….and not to compare herself with others. I’d tell her to write a blog or keep a diary. It’s amazing how much writing is cathartic . I’d tell her that she is going to love her life, her husband, her children, her friends and mostly herself. Thanks for the encouragement to write. I love my life. You helped me to touch an inner part of my onion. What a sweet life? Even with the fear of cancer or the future. Every day will be precious my younger self. I hope you are all loving your lives too.

    1. Diana, Wow, you were told you might never have kids and then went on to have six pregnancies. Yes, predictions of any kind can be dangerous. Thank you for sharing about what you’d tell your younger self. Pretty good advice I’d say. And thank you for mentioning I’ve encouraged you to write. Always love hearing that.

  4. Happy birthday and happy cancerversary!

    I wrote one of those letters to my younger self and in the end concluded she wouldn’t be able to handle all the truth at once. Others may be stronger than I was in my 20’s but if I was told about all the cancer that lay ahead, I think she would either have gone off the deep end into a haze of alcohol and drugs or just may have decided not to find or report each new lump, knowing even more lay ahead. Maybe I underestimate her. I don’t know. Great post!

    1. Sharon, It would have been a lot to handle, no doubt about that, especially in your case having had four diagnoses. It is an interesting question though. Thanks for sharing some thoughts about it.

  5. I’ll buck the trend here and say I’d like to be able to go back in time and prepare myself for what was to come. Yes, I’d be sad and fearful, but maybe, just maybe I could have been more prepared for things, and handled it all a little better, Or is that just my “wise” older me speaking? Perhaps!

    1. Marie, I think I would have liked to have known too. Of course, I’m speaking from my present perspective, as are you. And are we wiser now? I’d like to think so. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  6. Happy Birthday! I did a letter to my younger self as an effort for an awareness group, but I wouldn’t send it if I could. I don’t think I would ever want to change my life’s path, or hint at the good and the bad coming. Life is better when you experience it as it comes!

    1. Mandi, I bet you wrote an interesting letter to your younger self. It would be really something if we could push that send button wouldn’t it? I think I might like to change this one particular path of mine. Oh well, it’s not like we can anyway. Still, it’s an interesting question. Thanks for adding to the discussion about it.

  7. Nancy, a belated happy birthday to you! As for writing something precautionary to my younger self, I wouldn’t. People just need to do their lives. If I’d known I was BRCA-2, it would have just added unnecessary anxiety and stress. In this case for me, no news was good news, at least for quite some time. Glad I didn’t know the future.

    1. Eileen, Thank you for the happy birthday wishes. And thanks for answering my question. I think I would have liked to have known – boy that sounds like bad grammar… Then again, maybe not.

  8. Nancy,

    Happy belated Birthday!!

    I recently had two dreams where I, as an adult, interacted with little 6 years old me.

    I would allow myself to have a childhood … to have fantasies, to believe there is no harm in this world, to enjoy innocence. So no, I wouldn’t tell my young self anything because I would want to always remember the best years of my life, as a child.


    1. Rebecca, What an amazing dream. Thanks for sharing that you wouldn’t tell your young self about your future cancer. It’s an interesting question to mull over. Thank you for the happy birthday wishes too.

  9. Happy Birthday Nancy! – Belated at this point. It’s funny, I’m always trying to channel “Old Mae” asking her what she wants and what is important to her. She never answers or I don’t hear her. I make decisions and just guess if it is the right choice. I know my younger self was just as deaf to the future as I am today. I would tell her not to be as stressed and I would tell her to question that one mammogram when someone thought they saw something and in retrospect, they did. I wouldn’t know until 7 years later.

    1. Mae, I’m not sure our younger selves would hear or rather, listen to anything we had to say, but still… it’s a thought-provoking thing to think about, or at least I think so. That’s good advice you would give to your younger self if it were possible to do so. Thanks for sharing.

  10. I don’t know frankly if I would tell my younger self that I would have cancer in my forties, and stage IV cancer before I turned sixty. It’s not clear if my younger self would have appreciated receiving that type of information, wondering and worrying how it might affect her husband, children and career. It would be overwhelming, to say the least. But now that I am staring down stage IV, I am thankful for each birthday I can celebrate and for witnessing two sons’ weddings. Ageing doesn’t bother me, as I look on it as a hard-earned badge. Happy birthday, and may you enjoy many more!! xx

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