Birthdays have always been kind of a big deal in my family. My parents made sure every new year was celebrated, particularly the ‘big days’ of turning 10, 13, 16, 18, 21, etc. When I was diagnosed with cancer at 21, birthdays took on a very special meaning and milestone for me, and my family. I recall spending my 22nd birthday in the hospital, sick from chemo and disappointed and frustrated to be sick on my birthday, yet my parents made sure to throw me a small party with family and my nurses packed into my hospital room so I could feel joy and love. It was awesome. Since that day, I welcome and celebrate every birthday. I’m so grateful to be alive!
Many moments and people stick out over the years that have helped make life grand. And while I certainly could fill a few pages with the challenges, hurt, sadness, losses and failures that I’ve faced in life, all of those moments and emotions helped shape me into the person that I am today. I’m okay with that woman. I feel great joy in knowing what I have overcome to be here in this place.
So on my birthday, I wanted to share 41 items (in no particular order) that are my reminders of what makes life so awesome for me, in the hopes of spreading some optimism and love to each of you. And if you really want to help me celebrate this special day, I ask you to share a smile or act of kindness with someone you encounter today.
1. Being alive.
2. Feeling content in the moment.
3. Amazingly loving and supportive parents.
4-9. My nieces and nephews who I love like my own children and make me smile daily.
10-12. My sisters and brother in law who always have my back.
13. Fabulous friends who love and support me for me.
14. Giving back to the cancer community that saved me physically, mentally and emotionally many times during and after cancer treatment.
15. Walking, dancing, hiking and more on my own two legs after bone cancer.
16. Waking up every day with strength, courage, optimism and freedom to enjoy life.
17. Riding a bike.
18. Hiking in the woods.
19. Camping under the stars.
20. Dancing in Zumba, my kitchen and anywhere!
21. Loving and trusting my body’s strength (strong enough to survive cancer) and
abilities to be active. When I get frustrated at what I can no longer do because of cancer, it reminds me of all that I can.
22. The comfort of a strong hug.
23. Excitement of seeing someone special.
24. The beauty of a horse and the true peace these animals bring to me.
25. Fresh, bright flowers that bring cheer to the day.
26. Happiness of appreciating simple things in life.
27. A good book.
28. Opportunities to emerge myself in new adventures that create great memories.
29. Learning and trying new activities.
30. Working with other cancer survivors and volunteers to make positive change in the fight against cancer and helping others.
31. Watching the sun set and knowing a new tomorrow, filled with new possibilities, is on the horizon.
32. Smile-invoking memories of moments with family and friends.
33. The promise of a loving, fun, supportive friendship/relationship.
34. Laughter, the kind that makes your stomach hurt.
35. Music that strums to your soul.
36. Quiet time alone to reflect on blessings.
37. Facing fears, sadness, frustrations and challenges with optimism, smiles and hope.
38. Being loved.
39. Falling in love.
40. Confidence in yourself and your decisions.
41. The exciting anticipation of what’s to come – the people who will join you, new adventures to experience, and days filled with love, laughter and good health.