More birthdays, please!

As the health care bill makes its way through the Senate Finance Committee, and pink washes over the countryside, the American Cancer Society is campaigning for more birthdays.  That’s right.  More birthdays.  Where in the past perhaps women have unofficially “stopped” having birthdays at 39, the ACS wants everyone to have more birthdays.

And you know what?  I do too.   I desperately want more birthdays.  I want to turn 39, and 40, and all the lovely numbers that come after that.  I want to blow out the candles with my kids, and see my littlest one turn 3, and 4, and become the big kid that he thinks he already is.  I want to take my big kid to school, and teach both kids to drive, and be there when they get all gussied up for prom, or whatever the digital equivalent will be in 2025 (yikes!).

I’m taking steps to make that happen.  And I’m telling you all about it every step of the way.  I also talk a lot about mothers with cancer that I know from the other site, like Lyn, who just returned home from a double mastectomy and full hysterectomy … just a week after she finished chemo!  Or our Aussie friend Jenni Ballentyne, who is living full-time at hospice now, seeing her son Jack on the weekend, who has fought the good fight, but whose time is near.  Or Katie Homen, who we recently lost.  But today I have someone else to talk about.

Sherry K.  Miss Sherry, as my kids call her, as their faces light up with smiles.  Miss Sherry was my son’s preschool teacher last year.  Soft-spoken, kind, but determined, Miss Sherry always saw the best in the kids, and helped bring it out in them.  The class of 3’s was close-knit, gentle with each other, and friends with all.  In the early morning, both boys and girls sat quietly and did puzzles at the table.  At 10, both girls and boys ran around on the playground.  At noon pickup, they were the well-behaved class that came down the hall quietly, but with smiles on their face.  Whether encouraging parents to leave notes of praise for good behavior the kids had done or telling us about the way our kids loved participating in the drama skits she planned, Miss Sherry was always gentle, and kind, and attentive, and all the things you’d hope your child’s preschool teacher would be.

Miss Sherry helped me, too.  The first day I met her was only days after my oopherectomy, and I was so faint it was difficult for me to squeeze into the little chairs at the preschool-sized table.  I was self-conscious about my arm, with the sleeve and glove that marked me as “different.”  I didn’t want my kid to be seen as different, though.  I didn’t want people feeling sorry for him, or have him referred to as “the one whose mom has cancer.”  I didn’t want people to know.  But Miss Sherry knew.  And she pulled me aside and shared a little secret with me.

Miss Sherry is a 21 year survivor of breast cancer.  And she is now doing wonderfully, and remembers it as a time long ago, not a driver of every day life.  Throughout the year, she kept tabs on me as well as my child, asking about me when I wasn’t the one to drop Widget off at school, complimenting me on my hair as it grew out, or when my color returned and I looked like I had more energy.  She was there when I had to go back to daily lymphedema therapy, again, and again, and sometimes Widget was late to school.  She is still there at the school this year, and we smile as we pass in the hall.  We know something that not everyone knows, you see.  We know how very precious this life is, and how I almost lost this opportunity to tell you so.

Miss Sherry put a note in the preschool newsletter this week, reminding everyone to get their mammograms, do their self-exams, and remind “all the women in your life” to do the same.  It may seem like a little thing, to say what everyone says in October, but for a 21 year survivor to even want to think about this dastardly disease again, much less show such compassion and outreach, means a lot to me.

And so I dedicate this post to Miss Sherry, and I wish for her, and for all of you, many, many more birthdays.

Is there a survivor in your life that inspires you, makes you laugh, or touches your heart? Join the ACS more birthdays meme by posting about her or him on your own blog, or in the comments here, and grab yourself this badge.

More birthdays. That sounds pretty good to me.

8 Responses to More birthdays, please!

  1. upsidebackwards says:

    You, Susan. You do all those things. My family has been touched by cancer many times in the last decade or so, but we have no survivors. You are my inspiration and my hope that we can beat this terrible disease. Thank you so much, again and always, for sharing your story.

    • whymommy says:

      Ack! I didn’t mean me at all! But thank you, Kate! Your presence and encouragement has helped me get back to talking about it. Thanks for that. I needed it….

  2. The desire for birthdays, to see your children grow and have their own families, to cuddle grandchildren, to not just survive, but to thrive never ends. I am a 28 year breast cancer survivor, a fact that has been pushed aside in the last several years. As you know, it’s now ovarian cancer that threatens, but though it lingers, I am alive, living and loving everyday. It’s what I have. Keep up the work you are doing to spread the word and to encourage other women. God bless you, dear Susan!

    • whymommy says:

      Oh, Margaret. I wish so much we could take all this away from you. You’ve been through it for so long, and now to be starting chemo again … well, you would have never tolerated me saying this as a teenager, but that just sucks.

      God be with you, Pastor Margaret, as you start treatment yet again.

  3. Darryle says:

    Susan, I’m so glad to get to know Miss Sherry—and YOU. Someday when you’re way past your 39th birthday and way past 21 years of survival, I’m sure you will still be inspiring others the same way you are now.

    • whymommy says:

      If I’m still here, I’ll still be talking about IBC! Of course, then it will be as “back in the old days, when IBC was still around….” I hope!

  4. Stales says:

    What a wonderful post. Thank you for providing an inspirational spark. Keep rocking on!

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