I used to hate birthdays. It meant was I getting older, and I didn’t want to get old. I dreaded my birthday, hoped everyone would forget about it, and wore lots of black on that day. Let me tell you how quickly that all changed when I got cancer. Because when you’re fighting for your life with everything you’ve got, birthdays become huge achievements. One more year for me, hooray! Please, God, let there be many more of these.
So prior to my 47th birthday, I finally sat down and made my Bucket List. In reality, I am living exactly as I want to these days. I do what I love (write, blog, advocate for cancer warriors, work towards finding cures for multiple myeloma, spend time with the people I love (my family, children, closest friends and boyfriend), and explore the world around me (as much as I can afford to do). Nonetheless, that Bucket List… I needed to write it out. So I did:
- Boudoir photography session – I scheduled my photo session for next month! Why? To celebrate my aging, flawed body and find the sexiness in it. I can’t wait to write about it after it happens. It’s a bit “out there” for me, which is the whole point. Get out of my comfort zone and shake things up.
- Go skydiving
- Go on a hot air balloon ride
- Write a book of my experience of living with an alcoholic, divorcing him while simultaneously fighting cancer, healing, and recreating a life afterwards – I’m working on this already! Most of it will come right from this blog, starting with my Marriage Hell series. If you haven’t read it yet and you have some time, check it out!
- Travel to Dubai – I want to do this out of curiosity and to see what modern architecture can accomplish (at the expense of the environment, mind you).
- Swim with dolphins – We are going to Honduras in early April and I plan to hang with the dolphins on that trip!
- Go to the Griffith Observatory – Next time we are in LA, I’m finally going to do it!
- Visit the Holy Lands – Even if it seems a bit unsafe, will it ever be? Probably not in my lifetime and I am just not going to live that way
- Go to Istanbul
- Fly first class overseas – Ok, so I might need to hit the lottery to realize this goal but I can dream, right?
- Take a backcountry tour in an off road vehicle in Moab
- Hike Machu Picchu
- Go hang gliding
Above all else, when I realize that my journey on Earth is winding down, I want to look back on my life and marvel at my experiences and relationships. After all, nothing else matters to me, not the stuff I’ve accumulated, not my job, or my 401k. It’s all about the relationships and memories.
And so on my 47th birthday, a day of true celebration (thank you cancer!), it was time to review my Bucket List and cross at least one thing off of it. And so I did– I went hang gliding!
When I moved out of my parents’ home after graduating from high school and went away to college, I would often see the hang gliders at the “point of the mountain,” which is an area between Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah. On a great day, the sky would be filled with beautiful hang gliders. I wanted to try it ever since then. Since I’m now 47 years old, this has been a dream of mine for 29 years! It was time to stop dreaming about it and actually do it. So I called, made the appointment, and showed up on a very chilly and windy morning, all bundled up in my red ski pants, purple beany hat, oversized Michael Kors black parka, gloves, Starbucks, and boyfriend in tow to take photos. I wasn’t nervous or apprehensive at all, just excited.
I found my instructor, Stephen, who works for Cloud Nine Toys. We strapped up and launched. When we took off, I felt that exciting adrenaline rush. And then… peace. Beautiful, quiet, spectacular peace. Floating towards heaven. It was everything I dreamt it would be, and then some. Life outside my ordinary, life outside my comfort zone. Experiencing something different, unique, and special. Something I won’t ever forget. (Now I think I’m ready for jumping out of that plane!).
No joke, this has been a fabulous week and, a bit off topic, I’ll share anyway. On Tuesday, I had my two year post cancer appointment with my oncologist. In case you missed it, I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma (a blood cancer) in January 2012. I spent the better part of that year in intensive treatment, which included two stem cell transplants and unfathomable amounts of pills, injections, chemo, and blood products– and divorced my husband at the same time. These days, every three months, I get all my blood markers drawn, and every year, I get re-staged for my cancer. These tests are not fun and the bone marrow biopsy is quite painful. And, as one can imagine, when I wait for the results, I get nervous. And so it was that on Tuesday, I met with my oncologist and heard beautiful words: Stringent Complete Remission. And, better yet, this statement: “I don’t want you to be afraid. There are so many treatments for you and many exciting things happening in multiple myeloma. You will be fine.” I wanted to kiss him and cry, and then fall to my knees and thank God for answering my endless prayers. Instead, I went to the Salt Lake City Roasting Company and ate cake and sipped coffee, went to Bikram yoga that evening, and said my prayers of thanks in private. Now if that’s not a great way to kick off my birthday week, I don’t know what is.
After my skydiving experience, my boyfriend took me to dinner and showered me with gifts. And while the gifts were awesome, the only things that mattered were my health and the love that surrounds me every single day. If I were still married to my ex-husband, none of this would have been possible. So, yes, my friends, divorce is a blessing. Because after we emerge from the ashes, beautiful things await us. We just have to make that Bucket List and start living again. Trust me, the view is awesome.