My cancer-birthday story

I haven’t really felt like blogging lately, I’m not sure why. Maybe my mind is (almost) at ease with everything as I get closer to being done. Maybe I’ve just accepted this bizarre lifestyle as my norm for awhile, so I have nothing new to report.

I received notification that someone I didn’t know commented on a post. He just finished round one of FOLFOX. When I saw that I remembered that I hoped someone in a situation similar to mine would find this blog and find comfort – you’re not alone, there are a few of us out there.

That encouraged me to do something productive today. So let me tell you a story that happened to me on my birthday the year I had cancer.

I’m not a big birthday person. I try to make the effort for others, but when it’s my turn I’d prefer to have all these nice words and thoughts spread out to me over the year.

So this year, I kept it low key. A small group of some of my best friends in Lincoln went out for dinner at the new tapas restaurant downtown. It was perfect; I had people I cared so much about together. After the food and drinks were consumed, I was on the hunt for a dessert. Not satisfied with the options at the current restaurant, I picked another restaurant to try.

One waiter greeted us upon settling into our booth, and recommended the Irish Car Bomb pie, but would be right with us. In the meantime another waiter came to greet us, and recommended the same pie. His wrist was hidden under more bracelets than I could count, and he wore a necklace with a turtle and another with a mini harmonica. Because I was a little nervous about the prep since I’m avoiding alcohol, I pressed him about making sure I was in the clear. He assured me, “you’ll only be drunk with love for the pie.”

A couple minutes later, he returned to our table. “I’m sorry, I just have to ask, why are you avoiding alcohol?” I roll my eyes and made contact with my friend; I’ve already dropped this depressing reality bomb on a couple people this weekend, making them feel like jerks.

I just shrug and responded, “I’m just dealing with some medical issues.”

He pressed further, “what issues? I’ve dealt with a lot of medical issues in the past.”

Fine guy, back off. “Well, I’m undergoing chemotherapy. I was diagnosed with cancer this spring.”

He responds, “I thought so. I saw the scar on your chest and it looks like one I have. I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma five years ago. I have scars all over my body you can’t see. I just wanted to check that’s what was going on and wanted to tell you that you look really great.” He then zipped off to work.

Throughout our dessert, he popped in occasionally and him and I would compare surgery, chemo, and treatment stories. I explained to him how it is possible to live without a colon, he detailed his experiences with chemo. I congratulated him on hitting his five-year mark.

Towards the end he told me, “I don’t believe in a God, but I believe in fate. I wasn’t supposed to serve your table. I picked it up to make up for another waiter who helped me out earlier. Of all the restaurants in downtown Lincoln, you came to this one.” I laughed, as I’ve always said, there’s no such thing as coincidences.

My birthday pie was on the house. My friends heckled me to leave my phone number on the tip. “Just go get coffee with him, you guys have a lot to talk about.” I got them off my back by ensuring if I felt like I missed out later that night, I knew where to find him.

As we were getting up to leave, he slid down on the booth beside me. “I don’t want to give you the wrong impression, because I have a girlfriend. But, I wanted to give you this before you left, since I think we were supposed to meet tonight.” As he took off one of his bracelets he said, “my best friend gave me this when I was diagnosed. It was his grandmas, and I have no idea if the gold or stones are real. But it helped me get through these five years, and I hope it will help you too.”

I thanked him, and we left.

The bracelet is pretty, though it reminds me of something I would wear when i was 10. But I’ll wear it, every day in hopes that in 5-7 years I’ll be able to pass it on to another person in the midst of their fight. It’s my reminder that we are not alone, even in the midst of strangers there is love and compassion.

My cancer-birthday is one I won’t forget.

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Author: Clarissa A.

The older I get, the less I know.

1 thought on “My cancer-birthday story”

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