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The Thing About Cancer and Birthdays

by Christa CarlucciSurvivor, Non-Hodgkin's LymphomaNovember 23, 2020View more posts from Christa Carlucci

Like clockwork, ever since turning thirty, I would always freak out a few months before my birthday. Have I accomplished what I wanted to this year? Will I run out of time in meeting “The one” and in starting a family? Will I find time to pursue all my dreams and passions? Will I become “Obsolete” on the Merry Go Round that is Online dating? Will I reach the “Dreaded” forty, and fall off the map?

I pondered these questions, over and over, year after year, like a hamster in a wheel, who had found its way into a Macchiato with triple shots of espresso. I would agonize and perseverate and panic. And then the birthday would come, and the feelings would pass. Until I reached forty.

Turning forty, was one of the most painful events I’ve experienced. Still single, Still childless, Still no prospects in either department, and a feeling of hopelessness and dread. Yet, fulfillment was coming in the form of Musical Theatre. My childhood/adulthood dream, was starting to take flight, after I’d shelved it for years, for reasons which I am still investigating. And then came CANCER.

After being diagnosed with Lymphoma, at the age of 41, I was struck with many realities. The ironic thing is that, while going through treatment, I had managed to date someone (although he wouldn’t call it that) and I even had a birthday date. It had been a long time.

I had picked out a Mexican restaurant because Mexican food is my favorite. At that point, all food had tasted like what I assume woodchips might taste like, but it was much more about the experience. Do I wear my wig or a baseball cap? Do I talk Cancer or keep it light? I was excited to be on a date.

Our dinner ended with waiters coming to our table, singing, “Happy Birthday”, and smacking a HUGE sombrero on top of my wig. My date took a picture, and said, “You look happy.” But I wasn’t. I can look back and laugh at the massive sombrero and the guy. Both incapable of making me happy, because through it all, I’ve learned that it’s completely an inside job.

Flash forward to three years, and three birthdays, later. Still Cancer free, still single, still no children, and still working on the “Inside Job” that is my happiness. The thing about Cancer and birthdays, is that if I’m here to celebrate another one, I’d say I’m doing alright. Yes, the panic is still there. Sometimes the dread, and, at times, the hopelessness. But my appreciation for life and the “Little Things” cuts through some of the darkness.

Perhaps one of the things that I’m most grateful for, is the fact that this year, while eating my Mexican food, I can place a sombrero on my head without worrying about my wig falling off.

All of the posts written for Elephants and Tea are contributed by patients, survivors, caregivers and loved ones dealing with cancer.  If you have a story or experience you would like to share with the cancer community we would love to hear from you!  Please submit your idea at

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