Birthday, Shmirthday

My thirty-eleventh birthday is next week. It’s not a landmark birthday and nothing to get excited about. In fact, if I wasn’t so greedy as to want presents and a day of being spoiled, I’d just forget about it altogether.

But I don’t think that’s an option anyway. After the last year-and-a-half we’ve gone through, my birthday has become kind of a big deal. Instead of lamenting the fact that I’m middle aged, I need to be happy that I made it to middle age. Oh, I know that’s all very dramatic and it’s really not something I think of very often. Yes, I had breast cancer, but it was caught fairly early and my prognosis is excellent. There are so many worse things it could have been.

You may or may not know that I’m writing a book about my experience. It’s not a self-help or an inspirational book. It’s more of an Erma Bombeckesque look at what the past 18 months have been like for us. Don’t get me wrong. Parts of it are very serious. But I was amazed at the humor and the silliness that was borne of some of my situations.

As much as I would love to see this book published, I’m not going to hold my breath. If I do ever manage to get it into some semblance of an organized thought process I will try publishing. But even if it never comes to anything that’s okay. It’s a type of therapy for me now and it will forever be a record of what our family endured and learned through all of this.

So here’s a little excerpt from my story that has to do with my birthday:

In the spring of 2005 I had thick, curly hair that fell beneath my shoulders. I was also walking a few days a week with a friend. With the age of 40 closing in, I was in a desperate want to get into shape. You see, I had this plan.

For my 40th birthday I wanted long, curly, auburn tresses and a pair of red thigh high PVC stiletto boots. I wasn’t sure what would go in between my locks and the heels, but suffice it to say it was going to be hot. Todd would have his very own vixen.

Instead, I had a very thin buzz cut, 30 extra pounds and only one boob. Thigh high boots would have been a waste of money (and they ARE expensive) because I probably couldn’t have shimmied them past my knees. And whatever provocative little number would have accompanied the boots would have been too filled out in some spots, not filled out in others, decidedly dropping the sexy factor to somewhere around nil.

They say that 50 is the new 30, so does that make 40 the new 25? If so, what does that make 42? I’ll be going through reconstruction at the age of 41, so 42 is the next birthday I have a shot at.

Emotionally it was a little difficult to reach the landmark age of 40 in the way I did. My hair had started coming in, albeit slowly and still thin. I was actually scheduled for my last chemo treatment the day before my birthday, but the doctor graciously postponed it for nearly a week so I could enjoy my celebratory weekend.

Todd booked the two of us in a romantic little cottage up in Eureka Springs that we had stayed in several years earlier. The cottage had guest journals and I flipped back through the archives until I found my entry from 1995. It was a poignant moment to see the words I had written in such a different time. We were a young, happy couple with a baby and toddler at home. We were there to celebrate our 8th anniversary and enjoyed the romantic interlude from our hectic lives.

It was a good time for us. There were no thoughts of cancer or chemotherapy or reconstruction or hot flashes or, well, the list goes on. I was saddened by the way our lives had changed so drastically. I was heartened by the good and joyful life we had shared.

But mostly I was grateful. Even in the midst of a life threatening disease and all the problems associated with treatment, even with our husband and father living 1200 miles away, I had joy. I had the most important things necessary to a good life.

I had a husband who loved me with everything, even though I couldn’t wear thigh high stiletto boots and looked more like a GI than his wife. I had two children who were healthy and happy and who had stepped up to the plate when I was too tired or weak to do what needed doing. I had family and friends who loved me and lavished me with help and food. And I had a God who loved me and comforted me and promised me this, too, shall pass. I had everything I needed.

I am still shooting for the long, curly, auburn hair and thigh high stiletto boots for 42, by the way.


  1. Jen on November 12, 2006 at 10:06 pm

    This is needs to come with a Kleenex alert! LOL Thank you for sharing your excerpt Jen. You are a talented writer and I really like your comedic approach to life’s stories. Something along those lines that I really enjoyed was We’re Just Like You Only Prettier and Bless Your Heart, Tramp and other Southern Endearments – both by Celia Rivenbark. Bless you and if you decide to take up a fund for those boots, I would be happy to make a donation!

  2. Stacy~ on November 13, 2006 at 12:01 am

    I love attitude Jen. Both realistic yet hopeful and encouraging. Beautifully said. I would love to read your story. I think it’s wonderful for you to share. What a incredible spirit you have 🙂

  3. Bookwormom on November 13, 2006 at 12:27 am

    Hey Kiddo- Hope you get more chocolate than you can possibly eat & TONS of expensive coffee & giftcards to your favorite bookstore. Maybe Todd will take you to Victoria’s Secret..I’m sure you’ll have long curly hair again, BTW. My hair has grown back to 2/3 of its length from last December (I had nearly 12″ cut off for Locks of Love for a certain someone). Hugs & love, sweetie. If anyone deserves a huge bday bash, it’s YOU!

  4. Jenster on November 13, 2006 at 12:06 pm

    Jen – I’ll have to look up those books. For research, you know! lol And I’ll be sure to let you know if I start a boot fund. (you crack me up!)Stacy – Thank you for the kind words. :o)Amanda – I remember when you had your hair cut off. It made me cry. lol Right now I have short – but not super short -, curly, kind of auburn hair – which is pretty amazing when you consider I had next to no hair a year ago.Thanks for the birthday wishes!!Jen

  5. Angry Woman on November 13, 2006 at 12:13 pm

    Happy bday sweetie!!! Thanks for sharing that passage. I find that you’re publishing worthy just from that excerpt. Aim

  6. Jenster on November 13, 2006 at 3:04 pm

    Thank, Aim!! :o)Jen

  7. Devonna on November 13, 2006 at 3:11 pm

    Jen ~ Happy Birthday to you! What a wonderful, wonderful post today. I love your outlook on life ~ you just have tremendous energy and such a positive attitude. I do agree with the other Jen that your post should come with a Kleenex alert.

  8. Jenster on November 13, 2006 at 4:08 pm

    Thanks, Devonna. Though I hope all of you realize I’m not always positive. I just like to pretend I’m always positive. lolAs for the Kleenex alert – sorry! I guess I didn’t realize it might choke some people up, probably because I’ve read it so many times. I mean, it chokes me up, but that’s because it’s so personal to me. So I’ll try to be more discerning from here on out. :o)Jen

  9. Jan Jaffe on November 13, 2006 at 6:53 pm

    OMGosh Jen!What can I say!It was beautifully written.Touching, sensitive,humorous and inspirational.Lets get this published.Have a very Happy BirthdayWatch out stiletto heeled boots HERE I COME!!

  10. JenniferTX on November 13, 2006 at 7:27 pm

    Jen, that WILL get pubbed someday — I’m sure of it! You have a wonderful ‘voice’ and it shines through very well. I can already see the Author Picture at the back of the book (or maybe on the jacket of a HARDCOVER!): You, in those boots! Perfect, huh???? And you know what? As grateful as you may be, I think there are quite a few of us who are just as grateful that you’ve touched our lives, Jen. Cancer or no cancer, thigh-high boots or no thigh-high boots — My life is definitely richer with you in it.Besides, who else would listen to my rants about Issue Man or my raptures over Pilot Man? LOL

  11. Jenster on November 13, 2006 at 9:34 pm

    Jan – You’re making me blush. lolJennifer – You’re gonna make me cry. :o) I LOVE listening to your rants about Issue Man and raptures about Pilot Man! Thank you both for your encouragement! :o)Jen

  12. Tara Marie on November 14, 2006 at 8:13 pm

    Wow!!Happy thirty-eleven!!

  13. Jenster on November 14, 2006 at 11:04 pm

    Thanks, Tara! :o)Jen

  14. Anonymous on November 15, 2006 at 1:08 am

    Jenster – I love your excerpt and curly auburn locks and thigh high boots? You go girl! I just found you so I didn’t know what you were going through but I’m so glad that you are about to celebrate another birthday and I’m soooo stealing that Thirty-eleven when it’s my turn ;)I have only had minor, minor procedures but I swear the medical people make sure that your dignity leaves long before you’re ready for it. Sometimes you have no choice but to think of the ‘funny’ to keep from crying.Best wishes!CindySP.S. – it’s not letting my log in again so I’m going to come up as anonymous – grrrr.

  15. Jenster on November 15, 2006 at 8:57 am

    Thanks, Cindy. We all had to find a lot of funny to keep from crying. lol. It’s all starting to seem like a distant memory now, though. Thankfully!!Jen

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