My beautiful baby boy Jack Joseph, although I know that you are too young to read this yet,  I need to put into words on this, your birthday, just how very much you mean to me and how you saved my life in every way a person can save another person. I hope one day when you read this you will understand just how much your very life has sustained me, given me hope and wisdom, and made me fight, even when I thought there was not another breath in me.

I understand that some of this may be repetitive from a post from Jack’s last birthday. It’s of no matter. I spend every one of Jack’s birthdays reflecting on how he is my angel on earth and how truly blessed I am to be here to spend every one of them, when there was a time I didn’t know if I’d make it to his first.

I found the lump breastfeeding Jack, as many of you know. I was finished and, as I went to put myself back in my bra, I found it. If I wasn’t feeding Jack, I wouldn’t have felt the lump and the story may have ended there. He is, quite literally, my angel on earth.

Jack was just four months old at the time. He went from being a breast fed baby to being a bottle fed baby in just a couple of days. I had a surgery the very next week, with another a week after that, and another a month after that, and another a week after that. Then, I had chemotherapy for six months. The second type of chemo made my legs so painful that I couldn’t even stand. After that followed six weeks of radiation – every day for six weeks. I was so exhausted that I felt like I was sleeping standing up.

There were many times I couldn’t lift Jack , for long periods of time, in his first year. He started crawling at four and a half months in order to keep up with me as I moved around the house. He adapted to my situation. My grandparents stayed for days at a time to help, my family was constantly in and out and Jack became known as the comfort baby. You see, as upset as I was , so was everyone else around me.  It was a dark time and as much as everyone tried to hold it together, there were times it was just impossible. Those were the times when Jack would get scooped up, and smothered with kisses and hugs, which he returned in kind.

He was constantly smiling. He was such a happy baby. It was almost as if God was working through him to alleviate any of the guilt I may have felt for giving him the kind of first year he had. He never seemed to mind that there was always something going on, always someone in his house, always a bandage, or a drain, or a bald head to contend with. He just went with the flow.

Jack is now a strong, beautiful, popular eleven year old. He makes friends easily and is the first one to approach a new kid in school and invite him to sit at his table for lunch. He is a kind soul who, if he knows you are not feeling well, will come over and give you a soft kiss on the forehead. He will ask if I want anything when he goes to the kitchen to get a drink, he will help me clean up after parties (and Lord knows that happens often enough).  He senses that I may not be as strong as some of his other friends’ moms and, without making me feel insecure or guilty, just helps me. I love him more than words can say.

There are two things that come to mind when I think of Jack. One is that he is the epitome of “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. He may not have had the typical “easy” early childhood, as much as we tried to shield him from what was happening but, at the same time, I truly believed it helped to make him such a strong and independent little soul.

Next is the fact that he fits in with the history of Marines in his family. His great grandfather was at Iwo Jima and his father was also a Marine. As some of you might know, their motto is Improvise, Adapt and Overcome. Jack learned to do this at an early age and I think it will serve him well his entire life.

Sometimes, when my friends are upset about things going on in their lives (maybe a divorce, or they are having trouble conceiving and may have to consider adoption, etc.) I tell them that even though their lives may not look like what they imagined them to when they were “imagining “ what their lives would look like, they can still be wonderful and filled with joy they could have never even imagined.

I count my years of survivorship with how old my little boy, Jack, is. In a way, we share the same birthday. I gave birth to him and he is eleven. He helped me in my rebirth and I am, in some ways, eleven, as well.

Happy, happy birthday, my little angel!