I will be forty two in just a few short weeks. Forty two. This also happens to be the tenth year of my survival after diagnosis.

I make this point for a very obvious reason. If you told me when I was twenty nine that forty two was only thirteen years away, I would have cringed. Forty two? That’s like middle aged. That’s like OLD. Now, I LOVE forty two, just as I loved forty, and forty one and will love fifty and sixty and, God Willing, eighty. Not sure about ninety. The jury is still out on that one.

That’s what survivorship gives you, if you are lucky enough, and smart enough, to grab it. Perspective.

I hear people complain about their kids, and how they drive them crazy. I join in, I’ll admit. There is a difference, though. A difference in the “tone” of the complaining. I don’t know how to describe it except for that is “complaining mixed with joy”. I am so filled with joy at the fact that I am here for my kids to drive crazy that, even when they are, I can’t conjure up the kind of anger that many of my peers can.

I see people’s posts about going to the gym, going to the gym, going to the gym. I get it. People want to be in shape. In my heart I believe that it is 20 percent about health and 80 percent about looking good. I am not against this, as a concept. As a matter of fact, I am currently on a diet. I’d like to lose about twenty pounds. But, guess what? It’s not even close to a top priority in my life. I have lost things that no amount of running, or weight lifting, or working out will ever give me back. I have learned to love myself for who I am, and not for what I look like. I am always astounded when people say to me, “I swear, I wouldn’t even know that you had cancer and all of those surgeries.” I am so profoundly changed physically that I feel that they can’t really mean it. What I have to remember is that most of the changes are changes that only I can see, and that my spirit and my personality is what they are seeing. It is what is coming through. So, as long as I am not at a point where my health is in jeopardy, I would much rather spend my time doing things I enjoy than stressing about getting to the gym every day.

Some of my friends are going into menopause. I know, because they tell me. About their symptoms and the hot flashes and the moodiness, etc. etc. First of all, been there, done that, as many breast cancer survivors will tell you. I had the added pleasure of going from being pregnant to being in menopause all in a matter of five months. That’s a ride NO woman wants to take, believe me! Talk about mood swings. My husband actually called my oncologist because he really felt as though there was an invasion of the body snatchers situation going on.

As  a short explanation, I was raging with hormones before my baby was born and immediately after, while I was breast feeding. I was diagnosed at four months with estrogen positive cancer. That meant, I would have to have hormonal therapies that put me into immediate menopause. Thus, the huge drop in hormones within just a few months.

Now, it did suck, I won’t lie. Thankfully, when I was done with my treatment, I went back to “normal” and my cycles picked back up right where they left off. I know that menopause is coming in the next few years, though. And, here’s the thing, I can only experience it again if I am ALIVE. So, I will take it. I will take the hot flashes, the weight gain, the night sweats. I will take the mood swings (poor Al) and the bone density tests and everything else that comes with menopause because I will be grateful to be here to experience it.

I sometimes feel like a broken record here but, when all of these milestones happen to me (and just the fact that I count each birthday as a milestone should tell you something), I can’t help but to share the things that I have learned from this hellish experience of mine.

I guess it all boils down to this. One day you will die. Until then, don’t stop living.

 Fill your days up with things that you enjoy. Surround yourself with your friends and with your family. Open your house to people, celebrate birthdays and holidays and sunny days and Thursdays. Eat cake. Go in the ocean, even if it’s a little cold. Spend your money. Go on vacations, buy stupid souviniers, spend nine dollars on a hot dog at a Yankee game. Snuggle and cuddle and let the dog on the bed. When someone says “ you look great” say “thank you!”.  Drink good wine, eat good food, and drive a convertible at least once, even if you have to rent it. Have sex, even when you have a headache. Laugh as hard as you can, as often as you can (Thank you Lori and Chrissy), tell people you love them, even if they don’t say it back. Go to the movies, don’t wait for them to come out on DVD, and sing Karaoke like you are a rock star. Go to a Halloween party dressed as a Giant Shark, and not worry that you will look like a giant fool.

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And, no matter what age you are turning this year, no matter when, I wish you a very happy birthday.