Saturday, April 16, 2011

A milestone birthday

In just over a week I will be officially old J On Easter Day, that greatest of Christian festivals, I will qualify to draw my church pension and will celebrate a birthday I once wondered whether I would live to see. Before then, however, we have another important family birthday to celebrate: that of Grandson #1, which falls tomorrow.

Luckily, given our fading memories, all three grandsons’ birthdays are easy to remember. Grandson #3 was born on another of the great festivals of the church (and one of my favourites) – Epiphany, while Grandson #2’s arrival coincided with our wedding anniversary. How sensible of Prince William and his fiancée to choose such an auspicious date for their wedding.

However, I remember the birth of Grandson #1 for a very different reason.

Just before Christmas twelve years ago, when DD was 5 months pregnant, I was diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time. In the initial daze of shock and fear I briefly wondered whether I would even live to see the birth of our first grandchild and certainly whether I would be fortunate enough to watch him or her grow up. As it turned out, I was one of the lucky ones, whose cancer had been found early and was eminently treatable.

Early in the New Year I had surgery, and a few weeks after that started on a 5-week course of radiotherapy. This necessitated my making a daily round-trip of 88 miles on country roads to the nearest District General Hospital – three hours of driving for three minutes of treatment. I beguiled the tedium of the journeys with the wonders of audio-books and with daydreaming about my impending grandmotherhood, to which I was looking forward immensely.

The course of radiotherapy finished a fortnight before the baby was due. Ten days later I drove through a mid-April snowstorm to visit DD, who had been admitted early to hospital, and to stay with our son-in-law until the birth. We didn’t know whether it would be a boy or a girl, as DD and her husband hadn’t wanted to spoil the surprise. In the event we welcomed with joy and gratitude the safe arrival of the first of our three grandsons, and suddenly life took on a whole new dimension and meaning.

After my operation, the kindly consultant had given me a very good prognosis, but the radiotherapy and the driving had been hard work. Now the birth of this first grandchild brought me a new sense of optimism and hope for a future that had for a little while seemed doubtful. I could look forward again, not back, and could trust that, barring accidents, I would indeed live to see him grow up. Even a totally unexpected recurrence of the cancer when he was six didn’t destroy this hope, though it certainly dented it for a time, until tests showed that again I had been fortunate and the cancer had not spread.

Now, as the magic age of 65 looms, I am so glad still to be here and watching all three grandsons growing up into loveable, talented and unique individuals. Each birthday is celebrated as the significant milestone it is, but still, for me, the birthday of Grandson #1 has a special meaning, as I remember what might have been and give renewed thanks for what is and what may yet be to come. Having had cancer twice, I know that the future can never be taken for granted, but at present life is good and I am content, and always, always grateful. 


  1. Two lots of cancer. You certainly don't do things by halves do you?
    So glad you were lucky with the treatment each time. Thanks for this poignant post and congratulations on both your spirit of optimism and your forth-coming 65th birthday.
    May you enjoy many more in good health.

  2. Congratulations on the big birthday, and thank you for sharing your story. It is kind of encouraging to see the phrase 'eminently treatable' - words my own consultant used last August - from someone who 'been there'.

    May you blessed with many happpy returns of your birthday and the joy of watching your grandchildren grow and mature.

  3. I can quite see why Grandson 1's birthday has a particular meaning for you.
    Enjoy all your landmarks.

  4. First of all, thank you all for your congratulations and good wishes. We have a rather special day planned.... :-)

    Ray, that's what I thought when I found the second lump, and feel I was very lucky that it too was very treatable! Unfortunately, I come from a cancer-prone family, so cancer was always on the cards at some point.

    I've always been blessed with a basically optimistic temperament, though it's taken a few knocks at times. I was probably a horribly Pollyanna-ish little girl....

    Lovely to see you across here, Catriona. I remember so well how encouraging it was when I was going through treatment to meet other women who were further along the road and hear their stories. Back then I could hardly believe that 12 years on I would be looking back on it all as past history.

    Yes, Fly, I could never forget his birthday. Hard to believe that he will be a teenager next year - though his parents say he's practising hard for it already! .

  5. Happy birthday to Grandson #1 tomorrow. And congratulations on your very special birthday on the 24th! (Mine is the day after that!) It's a blessing to reach the senior ranks and, as you so touchingly point out, each day is a gift.

  6. How emminently appropriate that you should celebrate such a significant birthday on Easter Sunday. God bless you and your family. I am really touched by your inspiring story and look forward to the possibility of hearing about your celebrations...

  7. I do so hope that he has kept that look as he grows up. I love the pictures of babies that look like such knowledgeable old men :-)

    Happy Birthday to you.

  8. Thanks, Kathy and the same to you for the 25th. What a month for birthdays! Yes, I'm always grateful to wake up each morning, open the curtains and look out onto the world yet again.

    Broad, I'm thrilled that for the first and last time in my life, my birthday falls on Easter Day, and especially this birthday. The day will be just DH and myself and probably rather quiet by many people's standards, but I'll let you know afterwards....

    Rosie, thanks for the good wishes and yes, he still has that look when he's not grinning :-) The beautifully-shaped blue eyes are inherited from his other (Scottish) granny and are still as striking.

  9. Old - I won't have it said! Hope you enjoy your Easter day birthday. What a time to rejoice and so many things to rejoice over!

  10. ROFL, Sue! I quite agree. If DD coined the term "senior youth" instead of "middle-age" when she turned 40, perhaps I can be a "junior senior" with old age something still far ahead....:-)

    Yes, Easter Day is the most wonderful day for a birthday - a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me.

  11. A milestone indeed! Several, I would say - and not a stray dog in much for quoting Susan B, Anthony at you! Well done - I firmly believe that attitude of mind has a big part to play in dealing with problems of the flesh and have no doubt that your attitude could tackle anything. I sincerely hope you won't need to in future. And I am sure you're going to have a wonderful birthday. Much love, Annie

    (Ths photo of your grandson looking at the camera is just gorgeous!)

  12. What a lovely post about the things in life that really matter. And what a splendid set of significant dates. How lovely to have your birthday at Easter: being a mid-April baby, mine has quite often coincided, and it is a very joyful day when it falls on Easter itself (slightly less so on Good Friday, it has to be said!).

    Those wise, night-blue eyes that babies have...they really do arrive trailing clouds of glory, don't they. I wish you many more happy birthdays with your grandsons.

  13. Thanks, Annie, both for the good wishes and for the quote from Susan B Anthony, whom I'm glad to have learned about. I have to admit my positive attitude faltered at times, but eventually my "glass half-full" temperament won out.

    Yes, he was gorgeous and still is. :-)

  14. Thanks, Dancing Beastie - there are a lot of April birthdays about, to be sure :-) My mother was born on Good Friday and her birthday was April 21st. Interestingly, the year I was born her birthday fell on Easter Day!

    Grandson #1 was a rather solemn baby at first, just like his mother. He would look at you like that and you would swear he was about to say something important....

  15. Happy Birthday to you and your grandson. April is a lovely birthmonth, don't you think. My french friends have a times called me blindly optimistic (this coming from a people not known for any kind of optimism) and I's served me well. Happy Easter!

  16. Hello, Delana, and thanks for visiting. Yes, April's the perfect month to be born in - all that lovely summer weather ahead. Why then did we have our two in December and February?

    My experience of the French tells me too that optimism isn't a major character trait, though remembering what they have to cope with in terms of bureaucracy, perhaps it's not surprising!

  17. As your Baby Sis, who has followed doggedly in your footsteps to the extent of developing a virtually identical stage, size and type of breast tumour at the age of 49, I salute you!

    Well done on hitting the 65 marker post.

    I am six months short of my five years since diagnosis, and have seen my only daughter turn thirty, get engaged and plan her wedding - 23 July 2011 - all the past few weeks. My next birthday is my 54th (next month). If I ever have to face a second bout of diagnosis and treatment I hope I will approach it with the same fortitude and lack of self-pity you have always shown.

    Meanwhile, Many Happy Returns dearest Big Sis! I trust DH, DS, DD and spouses, and all your spendid GSs, will spoil you silly on Sunday.


  18. Your babies were born in December and February because they were conceived in the spring and early summer - doh! Says your Baby Sis whose only baby was born in mid-March. I know whereof I speak...

    May is a jolly nice month to be born as well, I can vouch for it. And The Husband's birthday is 21 March, the official first day of Spring and the first day of the zodiac year. Is this what as given us all such cheery dispositions?

    BTW Annie (our mother) would have been 95 yesterday. Exactly a decade older than HM Queen. Another April baby, born Good Friday 1916.

  19. Thanks so much, Baby Sis. You've coped very bravely with your own cancer, so respect is a two-way raod :-)

    Yes, you've had your own series of significant milestones recently and very happy one they are too. On the big birthday we're actually going out for lunch after church at the posh hotel across the road - most unusual for us!

    As for our bad planning where our two were concerened, life would have been much easier if we'd thought ahead :-)

    Yes, I remember that our mother was a Good Friday baby and she also had her 30th birthday on Easter Day 3 days before I was born!

  20. Having only 'known' you for less than a week, you have already inspired me. I am where you were when your DD was 5 months pregnant... your posts have been a light in my darkness and for that I thank you, friend. Congratulations on being who and where you are today - you are touching so many people's lives and we are richer for that!

  21. Hello Mackie and welcome, and apologies for the delay in replying. I've been away with DD and only got back last night. I'm so sorry you find yourself in the same situation and am very glad to have been some help to you in coping with it.

    When I had my first cancer, we hasd only just gone on email and I knew nothing about blogs or forums. The second time I found the Breast Cancer Care site:
    which is a public forum, and later a much smaller private forum:

    Both of these were very helpful in linking me with women who were going through exactly what I was experiencing and who were extremely informative and supportive. One of the worst things about a cancer diagnosis can be the loneliness and things like forums and blogs can do a great deal to lessen this.

    Best wishes for your treatment and please do keep in touch.

  22. A PS for Mackie. Have just logged on to BCPals for the first time in a fortnight to see that you've already found it while I was away. Great!


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