Birthday #59

Unlike many other women, I do not have an issue with everyone knowing my age. I just had not planned on announcing my birthday prior to today (Thank you ….Cat..).

Long ago when the world was young, I wasn’t in it. Fast forward a few million or billion years, give or take. Go with a bit less than 57xx if you firmly believe in the non-evolutionary calendar and can just not be dissuaded.  Even a bit more than that and I had been born, survived to adulthood, got through school, married, the Army, children, and living overseas. For after all is said and done, all of us perceive the world from our own unique point of view of which we stand at the center. To pretend otherwise for me would not be particularly honest; my filters of what is important has grown and changed as I have aged.

I am delighted to have made this age. For a long time, several years in fact, I did not think it was going to happen. The only positive that I was willing to tell myself was – gee, if you die young then at least you will not develop Alzheimer’s, be a burden to your kids, or land in a nursing home.

Background is below. Meanwhile, I am keeping my grey hair, wrinkles, and sags as a testament to survival. I hit the gym at 0700 this morning, managed to get something done at work, and will be going to dinner with another US ex-pat and Mr Mole.

I have a wonderful family, good friends, an employer that sends me to interesting places (well, what did you expect me to say about the Army?), and non-work related activities that are satisfying. Life is good.

Back about 14 1/2 years

In 1995, I went in for what was to be routine surgery. Came out minus my thyroid, found it was not routine and had the added discomfort of getting through the next few weeks with few people being able to make eye contact with me. Seems like medical professionals especially do not wish to be smacked in the face with reminders of their own mortality (especially when it is their boss). One, our hospital’s pathologist, was able to see me as a person and Brad and I have remained good friends to this day.

Looking back, I can recognize that I was not completely sane for a while. (Who me? What self respecting doc does not want to see her own path slides and CT scans? We will not discuss getting faint and realizing that detachment wasn’t working.) Adding to it was the joys of dealing with the US system (we need to evac you to Ft Sam for radiation, chem and a bone marrow transplant) vs the German system (well, this particular version of Non-Hodgkin’s is really low grade. 50% survive 5 years. Odds are 1/3, 1/3 1/3. It might go away on its own, it might slowly progress (what it had been doing) or it can morph into something really ugly which is not likely to respond to treatment. Low grade means horrible side effects as there is not much difference between tumor and normal tissue: as many die as a result of the chemo as from the disease. You can always change your mind later if you don’t want treatment now.)

Unlike the other 98% of patients, I elected to wait and see. I had three young children (Ms Maus [you might remember her birth announcement if you were on the Kaffee Klatsch in 1993 or otherwise connected by email back then] was only 6 months old when we moved to Germany for what turned out for the family to be the last time and was now just a bit past 2) and a teenager. I wanted time with them, not to head off to the US (bone marrow mortality=10%) with the potential for future or never to return. It took about 2 years for the peripheral lymphoma cells to clear from my blood: to learn that my parathyroid had been wiped by the same disease process and was never coming back. I made a lot of people unhappy during that time.

It was extremely hard on George, and our eldest who was old enough to understand the issues. It was months before I wasn’t thinking about it every hour, years before I went days without being worried about it coming back. My attitude and coping were made worse by those well intended medical professionals later who questioned the diagnosis since I was alive and apparently disease free (Hello? What part of “confirmed by University of Heidelberg Hem/Onc Center and AFIP do you not understand?).

I am now at the point where even taking my replacement meds for my parathyroid and thyroid are just routine and the reason for doing so has not particular importance. I plan on being around for years to drive the rest of my family crazy. Plus, there is all that fabric yet to sew, yarn to knit and fiber to spin….

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12 Responses to Birthday #59

  1. Carmen says:

    Happy Birthday, dear friend!

    59 is a very good age.

    We can discuss the theological implications of the Stash at another time…

  2. Jennifer says:

    Gee now I know the rest of the story. I was one of Holly’s underlings back then and never even understood she had cancer. I was unsure (and I’m a doc) if it were her thyroid or parathyroid- she really spared her subordinates, far enough removed not to know as part of their job, the drama of all she went through. (And mentored me through my own/ my new baby’s health drama a few years later). Happy Birthday and I always knew you were wise.

  3. Happy 59th, (((Holly))).

    You came into my life four years after the time you’ve described, and I’m so glad you did.


  4. Angeluna says:

    Dearest Holly, Happy 59th, a very good age, sags, wrinkles, grey hair and all!

    Your story is an amazing on. I can hardly imagine the emotional strength it took to live with this knowledge every day for years. You were such a wonderful support for me during my son’s leukemia. That seems to be a theme here in your comments.

    Sending you much love and wishes for great happiness,

  5. Kathryn says:

    Yes, well I did not really mean to bounce up and do that quite do dramatically…I was just so pleased with myself that I actually remembered it was your birthday…being an ancient cat I tend to forget the important things in life. Hang in there – where would I be without your words of wisdom?

  6. Linda M. says:

    Wow… the happiest of birthdays to you and many more in wherever place you wish to be.

  7. Ruth says:

    Alles gutes zum Geburtstag! And Mazel tov! And Happy Birthday. And….thanks for sharing part of your story with all of us…I, for one, came along way too late to know…

  8. nana says:

    Happy Birthday from me, too.
    I was a little shocked to read what you have gone through, and sure am glad it went to remission and also hope, that there will be many more years (decades?) to go through and do the fun stuff.

  9. Nina says:

    Happy birthday, Mama. I wish you all the best and love you. Also, I expect at least another forty years out of you. So there.

  10. Ann says:

    Happy belated birthday Hollly. Seems Ira was on Kaffe Klatch back when, but of course, we had no idea. So glad for positive outcomes. Many, many more good years.
    Love, Ann and Ira

  11. Lorette says:

    Happy Birthday! I had no idea about all you’ve been through. That would make every birthday a very special one, indeed. I’m with you on keeping the sags and wrinkles, not so much on the grey hair. Mine gets covered up. 😉

  12. Patricia says:

    I always always always marvel at you. I think you are one of the most amazing people I know. I am thinking that you are in some way an embodiment of the deeper meaning of the name Ruth, which stands for a combination of beauty and compassion that are inextricably entertwined, but it isn’t that simple. Quirky, funny, human, earthy, *smart*, talented, and then that wisdom that others have mentioned already. How on earth did I get lucky enough to have you as a friend? Blessings!

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