A breast cancer survivor shares her experiences with the BRCA gene.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Big "L"

Tonight is the last night of my 40s...funny how the 40s seem so youthful now.

Of course, being a Baby Boomer, I will always claim being young at heart versus the alternative. However, I can't dodge the fact that I'm moving into another decade -- and one that is without a doubt middle-age. This was verified by the AARP card I received in the mail, as we all do on this particular birthday.

A friend said not think of it as turning "50," but rather turning "L." I didn't understand what she meant -- did she mean think of it as "hell"?

"No...don't you get it?" she asked. "L is the Roman numeral for 50." So, I guess I'm "L" instead of 50.

Although I'm having to get my mind around this new decade/stage in life and crossing over to "the other side," of the aged, at the same time, I celebrate that I've reached this far in life. I'm grateful to be alive after all I went through this year - so, when you look at it that way, I think 50 is pretty cool.

It occurred to me that I've been given 3 chances at life when the odds were against me:

* Birth -- My mother was pregnant with me just 2 months after she delivered my older brother, making us Irish twins. Talk about being a "mistake," the story is told of the night Mom announced her news to Dad. It was pouring down rain and Mom & Dad were driving up the mountain in Birmingham, iwith a newborn baby crying in the car. Dad was unemployed since he had just gotten out of the military-- meaning, no money + no health insurance + 3 mouths to feed. The car died as they were going up the hill, and Mom picked that decisive moment to tell Dad that she was pregnant with me. Dad recalls how he put his head on the steering wheel and cried. Of course, I've been a blessing ever since...

* Surviving breast cancer at 42. Despite my annual gynecologist visit and mammogram not showing any trace of cancer, my monthly self-exam told me otherwise there was a problem. Because I pushed and pursued further testing after finding a lump, I saved my life.

* Surviving fallopian cancer at 49. Pursuing BRCA testing and being proactive about preventative surgeries this year resulted in finding pre-cancerous cells on my fallopian tubes, which would have ultimately killed me since I would never have known they existed until it was too late.

When I think about these incidences, I feel like there is a reason I've been spared...that there must be a purpose and meaning to my life. And tapping into that purpose - which, I believe, is being there and caring for people who are in pain, in a deep and caring way -- is how I plan to live out the rest of my life.

Happy Birthday to me.