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Thank You for the Belated Birthdays

I wanted to thank everyone for the birthday wishes over the past few days. I think people like me more because of how belated the wishes are becoming. Part of me is super impressed. I swear to you that I got seven late birthday wishes today. My birthday was two days ago! I'm so happy. Keep them coming. I’ll take all I can get.

It was truly overwhelming to hear from so many different people from so many different walks of my life. I also got my first royalty payment from Hope in the Time of Chemo! So in addition to celebrating another year of being on this earth, I also got to experience money getting put into my bank account that I earned solely as a writer. And don’t worry, there is always room for more of that as well. There is no such thing as belated when it comes to buying books. I promise and I swear.

And believe me when I say that all of them were read and all them were needed. Because this year I had a grown man’s birthday.

Or grown woman. Believe me when I say that I think women are tougher than men, but the male experience is how I am interfacing with this world so a grown man’s birthday is what I had to experience.

All I know is that it was grown ass. That’s the best way I know to describe it. Oh there was cake and ice cream and pizza. We blew out candles and my sisters are in town. I spent four dollars on fancy coffee and listened to my parents recount the story of birth.

But that was only the half of it.

Because cancer treatment waits on no person. Or no day. Or at least it didn’t for me on the 29th of July 2020. Because for some reason, my schedulers figured July 29 would be the best time to schedule me with a therapist appointment AND an MRI. I would have re-scheduled but I’m going to the beach next week and figured that knowledge was the best present I could give myself—so I person’d up and spent my birthday exploring the inner workings of my brain proper and my brain physical.

The first meeting was with my therapist. I’ve been feeling better since radiation, so it was nice to have something to celebrate. But thinking about the pain, talking about it, made me paranoid that it was going to come back. That’s not exactly fair, I thought as I adjusted my hips checking for phantom aches. He wanted me to focus on positive reinforcement. If I wanted cake, eat cake. If I wanted a nice coffee, drink the nice coffee. Celebrate feeling good. Create neural pathways that can extend these positive reinforcements. It was incredible information, but at the same time, it was 10 a. m. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t ready for it to stop.

After therapy I decided that since I’m paying for the advice I might as well heed it. So on my way to mom and dad’s I decided to create those positive neural pathways. I decided to create them with coffee from this place called Bridge City on Wade Hampton Blvd.

I was glad to see it open. Even though, I felt like a selfish piece of shit for thinking it. Was this the safest option for the people? I was glad they were open because I’m an extravert and the lack of people and social interaction is driving me crazy. I haven’t been inside anywhere to buy anything other than a grocery store since March or April, so three minutes in a coffee shop was borderline orgasmic, borderline incredible. But does a needy extravert get to put the life of an introverted barista at risk because I want to reinforce positive transmitters and have a good cup of coffee? Well on my birthday, the answer was yes, because I put on my mask and bought a cup of four dollar coffee.

I wasn’t the only one. The place was packed. Which I’m pretty sure means we’re fucked.

The second appointment was an MRI of my eye. The pressure behind my right eye isn’t getting better so my new Radiation Oncologist suggested that we take a look. It wasn’t an invasive test, he said, and why sit around and wonder what’s going on when we can just take a look and see. Again, I thought long and hard about canceling it, but there are so many moving pieces and phone calls and sometimes it’s just better to keep what you have than worrying about reshuffling the deck. Besides, what better gift is there than the gift of information? I’d get the test, and the next day know what’s causing this pressure. Happy birthday to me!

I’ve had this test before and it hasn’t been bad. It was at Emory, and they just put your head in the MRI machine. There’s plenty of room, I wear ear plugs for the noise, and after half an hour I was on my way.

Well, each place does something different, apparently, because for this test they put my head in a shoe box and told me not to move for the next 45 minutes. It was intense. Very intense. Part of me was glad I didn’t have any time to prepare for it, because my survival instincts just kind of came to the forefront. I counted to ten over and over again, I took long deep breaths, and thanked God for the gift of information and for the gift of Ativan and tried not to freak out.

And I almost did. I almost didn't freak out.

On the flip side of the scan was my birthday party. My whole family was there. Sisters, Michael, baby Patrick. I tried to rally. I wanted to rally. But a rally was not quite in the cards. I tried, however, but my family could tell. Jaimie kept asking if I was ok, that drove me crazy. My mom and family kept asking was if I was ok. That drove me crazy. Heaven forbid they love me. Heaven forbid they care about me. I half freaked out. For about five minutes I went into what happened. That I had just lived through a 45 minute simulation of that movie with Ryan Reynolds. I’m not taking about the funny ones. I’m talking about that one where he is buried alive. You know the one I wouldn’t pay a million dollars to watch, just the one that not I get to live through several times a year.

I heard somewhere that your birthday is a guidepost for how you're supposed to live your year. I'm not sure where I heard that. I'm not sure if it's true. But part of it seems to make a little bit of sense. So I guess I need to live this year as open as humanly possible. Better that than with my face in a shoe box. So for 42, let me be hot Ryan Reynolds, not the buried alive one.

And thanks again for all the wishes. And the book sales. I’ll take all I can get.

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