Friday, July 29, 2011

19 Going on 20

If it were up to me, I would move my birthday. As it is, I was born a few weeks early, a little too eager to come into the big wide world. I was supposed to be born in August, but instead held fast to the end of July and was born on July 30th.

Every year on my birthday - without the help of an alarm - I wake up around 4 AM, which is when I was born. Perhaps it’s complete coincidence, and perhaps I wake up every night at 4 AM and don’t bother to derive significance, but on my birthday, I’d like to think it means something. Having a birthday used to feel like waiting for the tooth fairy: I knew it was coming and it was magical and I felt at once older and bewildered and special. I always liked having my birthday in the summer, it is my favorite time of year and I would never have to go to school on that day. But in the past almost decade since my diagnosis, my birthday seemed to mean less or maybe mean more of a conversion into the ‘sick’ me. Either way, it lost the magic that kept me up at night dreaming about what I would wish for over the candles.

I spent my 16th, 17th, and 19th birthdays in the hospital. Last summer before my 19th birthday, I had wished on every fallen eyelash that I would have my surgery before my birthday. But I would have to settle for August 10th, and so I was left to celebrate the day in the hospital. It was that day that my doctors urged me to try the pain medications, and I reluctantly did so. But shortly after the first injection, my eyes went wide and my belly relaxed and the world was a little hazy and a little more okay. Full confession: I was so drugged. And it was incredible - people in and out all day long with gifts, I sat there doe-eyed and largely oblivious, and some random people even came in with a guitar and sang happy birthday. As a disclaimer, I was very, very drugged and so all of these memories may be completely fictitious, however, they succeed in amusing me now.

I joke - but am also completely serious - that if you want to get gifts (and good ones at that) for six months, have your birthday in the hospital followed by getting an organ out. An appendix will do, but I of course went for the colon. I was lucky enough to receive many beautiful and thoughtful gifts, but all I wanted was an ostomy.

When August 10th arrived, it was dawn and sunny, unusually quiet and still. My belly fluttered with millions of butterflies, like it had done years before on my birthday. As melodramatic as it seems now, that day was my saving grace, it was my countdown, it was really my birthday.

If it were up to me, I would change my birthday to August 10th. But on July 30th, I will be 20 years old, and with leaving my teenage years behind, I hope I will leave the majority of my Crohn’s roller coaster there too. I am so wildly appreciative for the past 12 months, every good second and every bad one, that I cannot fully put it into words. This year has given me the purest opportunity to know firsthand that I can overcome anything, that my life is mine and that it can be wholly wonderful.

To the person I was a year ago, you are strong and you can do it. To the person I will be in a year, never doubt yourself and follow your gut.

To the person I will be tomorrow, happy birthday.


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