(Note: My all-time favorite American Cancer Society tag-line -- “ACS..The Official Sponsor of Birthdays. It doesn’t get any better than that. Knowing that year after year I’ve been able to celebrate another birthday (since my original diagnosis in Dec. 2000) means so much to me. And, I know it means a lot to my family and friends. Each year has been special. There have been ups & downs, but with each passing year has come a greater understanding of life. I love being a part of an organization that supports ‘more birthdays’ and another year of life. To my fellow cancer survivors -- all I can say is “happy birthday!” Celebrate! Live life to the fullest.)
I had reached the big 50. August 9, 2002 -- my day to be the birthday girl. My family helped plan a dinner bash in my honor at a local restaurant, Taste of Italy. (This establishment closed but the owners have a new place.) See More than 20 people joined me on August 10, plus several stopped by to say hello and offer up their best wishes. We had taken over an entire area of the restaurant, and everyone was enjoying the great food and ambiance. Plus, there were lots of presents for me to open (that was a huge surprise) and a delicious cake prepared (with love) by wonderful friends who worked for a nearby Publix. See
My celebration included not only the party but a dessert get together (the night of my actual birthday) with my daughter, Adrienne, who took me out for a “yummy” brownie sundae at a nearby restaurant. The entire staff stopped what they were doing to sing “the happy birthday song.” That was fun!
I was shocked by the array of gifts I received, so many presents -- and to me, sharing this with my friends and family was the real gift. Being around their energy gave me strength. I was now 50 years old and for a few brief moments, I felt great!
I had started treatments with Procrit Go to: days prior to my birthday, a drug designed to build up my blood cells. I was officially anemic and very weak. I was hoping for a miracle. I was hoping the drug would instantly give me the energy I was lacking. Of course, no such luck. I was sleeping much more, and for longer periods of time. I made a note to ask if this was normal.
Per instructions from Dr. Shah, I also added a nutritional supplement to my diet. I made a shake out of Ensure along with ice cream and a banana. My taste buds were effected by the chemo, so whenever I ate, I needed to add more flavor in order to taste my food. I could not tolerate spicy foods, but needed extra “additives” to help me eat better. There were some strange things going on with my taste buds and my body overall. I developed more indigestion and anything the least bit spicy made me extremely sick to my stomach. I could not even eat tomato sauce, although ketchup was fine. I now ate my spaghetti with ketchup, but at least, I was eating.
Besides challenges with eating and the extreme fatigue caused by my low blood counts, I had not been sleeping well. I finally got a new bed, thanks to a script written by Dr. Shah. My hospital bed arrived a few days prior to my birthday (another wonderful present) and this was a real helpful device. Now, I no longer had to sleep flat on a bed or try to create a “hill” out of pillows so I would not be lying flat. Since breathing was a major problem, being able to adjust the bed was a major benefit. I could make it where my body could comfortably relax and not have as much difficulty breathing. I loved my new bed. Unfortunately, our bedroom was not designed to accommodate the extra furniture. Our full size bed was pushed against one wall, and my hospital bed was put between that bed and the other wall, with room for me to get out on either side. Not much, but enough. I could still access our closet and the bathroom. It was tight, but it work for now.
Getting a good night’s sleep was my first order of business. I needed a restful evening. Even a better nap would make a difference. Feeling exhausted was not my idea of how to begin a new year of my life. My birthday -- my fifth birthday -- was a new and exciting beginning.