My next post was supposed to be a recap of the wonderful experience I had at Mary’s Place by the Sea, an all women cancer retreat in New Jersey. But in the wake of so many lives lost to cancer last week and today marking the third anniversary of my mother’s passing I felt compelled to shift gears and come back to the retreat next time.

Last Monday was my 32nd birthday. Three years ago on that day we thought my mom might leave this world. I remember thinking please God, don’t let it be on my birthday, knowing if it did my future birthdays would forever be shared with that sad moment. During this time my mom ate very little and found it hard to put together complete sentences. In the days leading up to that birthday I remember telling my family I didn’t want to celebrate or have a cake. I was bitter and angry with the awful way my mom had to leave this world and couldn’t bring myself to celebrate. But my sister got me a cake, and to our amazement  my mom sang all the words to “Happy Birthday” and ate not one but TWO pieces of ice cream cake!  I’ll forever hold that memory of my last birthday I got to spend with my mom.

Flash forward to last week and my 32nd birthday. The night before my birthday, I learned a young father who had bravely fought multiple myeloma had lost his three year battle. While I didn’t personally know him, I had followed his story through my online Myeloma under 50 support group and always hoped to see things turn around. My heart sank to hear of his passing. I awoke on my birthday to hear that David Bowie had lost his battle with cancer, at the age of 69, the same age as my mom. I found myself right to where I was three years ago, bitter and angry with how many people are taken from us by cancer. Now being faced with my own cancer I find myself a semi frequent guest of MM’s pity party, table for one. Oh and hold the wine that I’d really love to wash my frustration down with because alcohol supresses the bone marrow so I’m supposed to abstain. 

I am glad I celebrated my birthday, if I didn’t, I would be letting the bitterness win. Keeping a positive attitude is a weekly, sometimes daily struggle but I know I’m stronger than that and I always seem to find away to persevere. My birthday flowers from J and the lovely dinner we had helped the positive side win, and I’m thankful to still have so much in my life to celebrate. 

Tonight I celebrated my mom’s life by finally being brave enough to play the last voicemail I had from her. I discovered the message months after she passed and had always worried I would fall apart if I listened to it. It was short, a reminder to wear sunscreen to a lake party I was going to. But rather than falling apart, I felt comforted and smiled at sound of hearing her speak for the first time in years. I miss her everyday, and though it’s gotten easier with time I think of her often. My heart goes out to all of those going through that loss right now.