After you hit thirteen, suddenly you were too cool to celebrate your birthday because now you are “grown up”. Until, of course, you hit sixteen, when most girls like to have a sweet sixteen party. Guys really don’t care much for sixteen, except for the fact that this is when they become eligible to get a learners permit in order to drive a car (although they still have to have a chaperone in the car diving with them until they get their drivers license). The next biggie, maybe not in terms of a party, but the feeling of really being “grown up” is eighteen. Then the mother of all birthday parties comes at twenty-one. For most, after we hit twenty-one, at least from my perspective, birthday celebrations go downhill (unless your name happens to be Kardashian). Well, at least I didn’t really want to pay attention to them much – unless someone is going to give me a big-ass Tonka® truck, and I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
Birthdays come and go, and as we get older many of us don’t want them to come at all, we just want them to go away. Perhaps, my thinking on birthdays was skewed a little when I was sixteen, which was the year that I was diagnosed with Diabetes. And not that I was huge eater of sweets, I did like to indulge in a little birthday cake from time to time…ok, maybe not the cake so much as the icing!
But now it is the mid 1980’s and there is very little in terms of sugar free options for Diabetics. There may have been one or two others, but I distinctly remember Sweet & Low® put out an ice cream. When you had grown up on real ice cream, the Sweet & Low version was quite a shock to your system. It wasn’t much later on that other companies such as Hood® and Edy’s® put out sugar free or no sugar added ice creams, that, honestly, taste very good. Dunkin Hines®, for a short time, came out with a sugar free/no sugar added cake mix that has since gone away.
Why am I going on and on about birthdays, you are probably asking? Well, if you remember from my last entry, I made a brief comment that the procedure that I was going through that day was a day before my birthday. As I re-read that entry, it got me to thinking about how life was at last year’s birthday, as compared to how it is like this year.
At last year’s birthday, I had just been put on the kidney transplant waiting list about three or four months earlier. Tommy had been determined to be a five out of six antigen match to me, but he was still at the beginning stages of going through the testing process, so essentially he could have been ruled out at any point. So, this birthday was a little nerve-wracking, to say the least. What was going through my head was (and as I have heard from others who have waited for a transplant, these feelings are somewhat normal), is this going to be my last birthday? How many more birthdays do I have left. I was an emotional wreck, but I tried not to let Christine or Mom or Tommy, or anyone else for that matter, see me like that – this was a special trait I picked up from Dad, he was the master at not letting anyone know how he was feeling most of the time (except for the time when I was about fourteen or so and he taught me how to change a tire, let’s just say that I saw a whole wide range of emotions that day!).
This year was completely different. The transplant occurred about six weeks or so before my birthday, so the feelings are still quite raw. I remember after the surgery, even before Tommy made his way down to my room, I was constantly asking the nurses two questions…one, how he was feeling (and they kept telling me that he was in quite a bit of pain), and two, what was the total count up to on how many nurses he had hit on!
Then, finally, Tommy was able to make it down to my room…it was only for about two minutes because of the pain he was in. But after he left I could feel my eyes well up and I started balling and sobbing. Yes, I was happy to be alive and have a chance at living life (a quality life at that), but my little brother was hurting and it was because of me (even as I write this, I have a tear welling up in my eye). I was so grateful, but the last thing I wanted to see was him in any pain, even though we were told beforehand that he may have a little bit more of a difficult recovery initially. Back in April, when I got the call regarding a deceased donor, part of me happy because I knew if this worked, then Tommy would be spared having to go through the surgery and enduring any pain.
For comparisons sake, comparing the two years is like comparing Tab® and Diet Coke®. For those of you who don’t quite remember Tab®, Tab® was Coca Cola’s® first attempt in the diet cola market. Let’s just say, they got much better when they came out with Diet Coke®.
But now that it is a little more than seven weeks since the surgery, Tommy and I are both recovering well. And this birthday means so much more to me…no longer do I see a light at the end of the tunnel, I have actually emerged from the tunnel and there is nothing but bright, blue skies in front of me. In the words of the 70's rock group, Rare Earth, "I just want to celebrate another day of living!"
Now, if only I had a sugar free birthday cake and a Tonka® truck (you’re never too old for a Tonka® truck)!
If you, or someone you know is interested in organ donation, please contact: www.neod.org; www.donatelifenewengland.org, www.organdonor.gov; www.unos.org; www.donatelife.net; www.organtransplants.org; or www.thewaitinglist.org, or, by all means, speak to your own physician, or feel free to send me an email.