It’s a Junior Mint Kinda Day

Guest Blogger: Lauren Rockwell

Yes, I know I often start off the intro to my guest blog posts by saying it is an honor to have the opportunity to publish these stories, but truly today it is a particularly delightful honor to share with you Lauren’s story. You see today is Lauren’s birthday and her piece is a beautiful reflection on appreciating the beauty of growing older.

Happy Birthday Lauren and may you celebrate many, many more happy birthdays in your lifetime.

Lauren’s Story: It’s a Junior Mint Kinda Day

Today I turn 49, one more year till 50. My “birthday week extravaganza” as it has come to be known in these parts, is also coincidentally the time of year that I have my yearly round of “just double checking to be sure the cancer hasn’t come back” tests. I used to hate that the two events coincided thinking, “Why in the world do I want to think about cancer on my birthday?” But now, with old age of course, I fully grasp that there are lessons to everything in life. That almost always, life unfolds just as it’s supposed to with its impeccable timing and that is a good thing (yes, even when it makes us feel cranky about getting a mammogram during our birthday week festivities.) The truth is the tests keep me from kvetching about getting older, they make me mind my manners in making disparaging remarks to my wrinkles, and serve to poke me in my cellulite dimpled butt to remind me how darn lucky I am to be here.

Birthdays take on a different significance to those who have spent time in Cancerland. For us, birthdays are never a sad measure of days gone by or marked with a day of deep reflection of how little time we have left. Birthdays are a Yippee Yahoo Party Blower Celebration of how much bonus time we were given. It’s like finding the extra Junior Mint in the bottom of the box; you know the one I’m talking about, after you shook the box and thought it was empty and there stuck to the bottom, was one more Junior Mint. That’s how I feel with each year passing. And darn it, I love Junior Mints.

My girlfriends bemoan these middle aged birthdays, and many (who will remain nameless) have entered a very deep depression at turning fifty. I won’t lie and will admit I have been known to kvetch a little, but very little. I hear them gripe about belly fat and sagging breasts and wrinkles and hot flashes and I do have a hard time not jumping on that wagon, but cancer inevitably holds me back. Cancer taps me on the shoulder and says, “Now what just a gosh darn minute Missy, wasn’t it you asked to get to fifty? Weren’t you the sobbing girl who begged and pleaded and prayed to get to fifty and now you are complaining about what 50 looks like?” So, given the alternative I’ll take my cute lil’ ole tummy fat, gladly…. well okay not exactly gladly but I’ll take it. Given the alternative, I’m glad I have one breast that sags. Hot flashes just remind you that are alive and that hallelujah, your body is working normally. It is in realizing that you could have none of this that makes you appreciate all of this.

When I was in treatment, I read a book called, “If I Make it to Five.” That statement was made by a child in cancer treatment. I think we all, no matter our age, set a bar like that at diagnosis. We barter and say, “Let me make it till my kids are grown. Let me make it till my daughter’s wedding. Let me make it till the grandchildren are born. Let me make it to fifty. Let me make it to five (years out.)” Birthdays themselves become our gift. They are the only gift we ever really wanted in the first place, another 365 days of health. Thank you American Cancer Society, for sponsoring my birthday.

A friend recently asked me, “Are you always this positive?” and the answer is that almost always, yeah I am; cancer will do that to you. It gives you perspective, it makes you take each day and see what new thing you got that you wouldn’t have had if you hadn’t made it to 49. And golly, I mean really, how much more of a gift is 49 than 5.

I will age gracefully and will age with grace; something I might not have done without cancer.  I have made it to five. Now get me to fifty. I know there’s at least one more mint in the box.

Visit Lauren’s blog at afterfiveyears.com