More birthdays, please! (by Susan)

As the health care bill makes its way through the Senate Finance Committee, and pink washes over the countryside, the American Cancer Society is campaigning for more birthdays. That’s right. More birthdays. Where in the past perhaps women have unofficially “stopped” having birthdays at 39, the ACS wants everyone to have more birthdays.

And you know what? I do too. I desperately want more birthdays. I want to turn 39, and 40, and all the lovely numbers that come after that. I want to blow out the candles with my kids, and see my littlest one turn 3, and 4, and become the big kid that he thinks he already is. I want to take my big kid to school, and teach both kids to drive, and be there when they get all gussied up for prom, or whatever the digital equivalent will be in 2025 (yikes!).

I’m taking steps to make that happen. And I’m telling you all about it every step of the way. I also talk a lot about mothers with cancer that I know from the other site, like Lyn, who just returned home from a double mastectomy and full hysterectomy … just a week after she finished chemo! Or our Aussie friend Jenni Ballentyne, who is living full-time at hospice now, seeing her son Jack on the weekend, who has fought the good fight, but whose time is near. Or Katie Homen, who we recently lost. But today I have someone else to talk about.

Sherry K. Miss Sherry, as my kids call her, as their faces light up with smiles. Miss Sherry was my son’s preschool teacher last year. Soft-spoken, kind, but determined, Miss Sherry always saw the best in the kids, and helped bring it out in them. The class of 3’s was close-knit, gentle with each other, and friends with all. In the early morning, both boys and girls sat quietly and did puzzles at the table. At 10, both girls and boys ran around on the playground. At noon pickup, they were the well-behaved class that came down the hall quietly, but with smiles on their face. Whether encouraging parents to leave notes of praise for good behavior the kids had done or telling us about the way our kids loved participating in the drama skits she planned, Miss Sherry was always gentle, and kind, and attentive, and all the things you’d hope your child’s preschool teacher would be.

Miss Sherry helped me, too. The first day I met her was only days after my oopherectomy, and I was so faint it was difficult for me to squeeze into the little chairs at the preschool-sized table. I was self-conscious about my arm, with the sleeve and glove that marked me as “different.” I didn’t want my kid to be seen as different, though. I didn’t want people feeling sorry for him, or have him referred to as “the one whose mom has cancer.” I didn’t want people to know. But Miss Sherry knew. And she pulled me aside and shared a little secret with me.

Miss Sherry is a 21 year survivor of breast cancer. And she is now doing wonderfully, and remembers it as a time long ago, not a driver of every day life. Throughout the year, she kept tabs on me as well as my child, asking about me when I wasn’t the one to drop Widget off at school, complimenting me on my hair as it grew out, or when my color returned and I looked like I had more energy. She was there when I had to go back to daily lymphedema therapy, again, and again, and sometimes Widget was late to school. She is still there at the school this year, and we smile as we pass in the hall. We know something that not everyone knows, you see. We know how very precious this life is, and how I almost lost this opportunity to tell you so.

Miss Sherry put a note in the preschool newsletter this week, reminding everyone to get their mammograms, do their self-exams, and remind “all the women in your life” to do the same. It may seem like a little thing, to say what everyone says in October, but for a 21 year survivor to even want to think about this dastardly disease again, much less show such compassion and outreach, means a lot to me.

And so I dedicate this post to Miss Sherry, and I wish for her, and for all of you, many, many more birthdays.

Is there a survivor in your life that inspires you, makes you laugh, or touches your heart? Join the ACS more birthdays meme by posting about her or him on your own blog, or in the comments here, and grab yourself this badge.

More birthdays. That sounds pretty good to me.

crossposted at Toddler Planet.


7 Responses to More birthdays, please! (by Susan)

  1. Amy Swygert says:

    Susan, all of us here at the ACS LOVED this post and especially loved the underlying message — there are things (big and small)we can all do to create a world with more birthdays. I hope all of your readers who hate cancer and love birthdays will join our movement for more birthdays at Thanks so much for your passionate support!

  2. Amber says:

    A Cancer diagnosis demands so much from us; emotionally, physically and mentally. My heart felt sympathy goes out to anyone who is battling Cancer of any type.

    In 2006, my Mother was diagnosed with Leukemia at the age of 79. My Mother lost her battle 8 months later.
    I created the MedTrakker… founded and inspired out of deep sorrow and personal experience.

    MedTrakker is a Cancer Medical Organizer created to assist patients in tracking and organizing every aspect of there treatment care journey.
    The MedTrakker was created to save patients and care givers the anxiety of “Starting from Scratch”.

    The Organizer allows the patient to record Important Contacts, Health and Treatment History, All of your appointments with a 1 year Calendar, Chart your daily or weekly Blood Counts. Side Effect Management, Insurance Discussions and more.
    The Organizer also provides Nutritional Support, Physical Support and Motivational Support. Each section of the MedTrakker is designed to fit the needs of every Cancer patient and their Care Givers. Patients will interact with many health care providers aiding them in there treatment care. MedTrakker is a valuable resource tool in an easy-to-use format. Please visit us online
    We donate 10% of our proceeds to LACO; a non-profit organization that helps families touched by cancer.

    Blessing to all who are battling any type of Cancer!

  3. Darryle says:

    Susan YOu always inspire me–even moreso reading this post. Thank you for sharing Miss Sherry—and yourself.

  4. Jill Aldrich says:

    Hey Susan,

    Your gratitude and acceptance for what life offers up just plain shines througj.

    Thank you.

    Had my final recon today. Skin graft from abdomen for nipples. Drains, again. Ugh. But she may have liposuctioned my abs to transer fat to the girls. Won’t know if this happened until I talk to her and how the operation went. Hopefully I’m on the last leg of this cancer journey.

    My heart aches for Jenni B. Thank you for asking us to comment. She’s an absolutely lovely person, and I love supporting her in any small way I can.

  5. Jo says:

    I’ve always thought you were amazing and you prove it so often. 🙂

    I added the button to one of my blogs and will add it to the others tomorrow.

  6. More birthdays sounds good to me too!!

  7. What a beautiful article! Sherry is amazing! I have known her for many years and recently she shared her story with me. Her story struck a cord in my heart. I am BRCA 2+ and very confused on what to do. Sherry told me she would be there for me….no matter my choice on surgery or waiting. She is a true inspiration to me! Love you Sherry! ~Helene