Last year, in the month leading up to my thirty-second birthday, I committed to thirty days of yoga; the final day landing on my birthday. The last day of the series was a silent flow, and I found myself crying softly as I moved in and out of the sequences. My apartment was still, in a rare moment of quiet, and the creeping springtime sun began to make an appearance on that final day of winter. Completion of the program was a big accomplishment, a gift to myself. The gift of flexibility, both physical and mental. I started the series both to find time for myself, calm and stillness in the midst of life with a toddler, but also in an attempt to alleviate some nagging aches and pains that I attributed to lack of attention towards my own care. To say that I knew, even then, that something was wrong would be a misstatement, but I often felt, in that year, that my body seemed to be failing me quietly, in some unknown way.
Today I turn 33 years old. I have been told so many times that birthdays hold so much more significance when you live with cancer, but this birthday feels somewhat out of place, an ordinary event in a year that has been tumultuous and unrelenting in its challenges. Perhaps I have not lived long enough with cancer to find more celebration in the day, but I am struggling to feel festive. Although my most recent doctor’s appointment had positive news – my bloodwork shows minimal toxicity from my current medication regimen, and I seem to be tolerating it well – I have been pushing through yet another cold for over a week. I am tired. I am tired of feeling tired.
In many ways, it feels like breast cancer has split me into two people: the person and the patient. Some days, they are one and the same, but some days, the cleaving is nearly complete, and I feel myself staring into the face of this other me living a very different reality. My body is turning 33, but I am in menopause. I am more easily tired, and have a panoply of side effects that, while not debilitating, are annoying. And yet – yet – I am still here.
Tomorrow I will wake up to the first day of spring, the season of growth, rebirth, and life. Perhaps, on this birthday, on the last day of winter, I don’t necessarily need to seek an arbitrary celebration, but allow the catalyst of the spring season to do it for me, to push me onward, to feel the warmth of the world on my face, stay out later, shed heavy coats, and dig my fingers into the vitality of the universe that always returns regardless of the harshness of the previous months. And so too, I can find solace in these rhythms, these traditions of nature, celebrated from the very beginning of time.