Birthdays Take On New Meaning


Another trip around the sun is quite a reason to celebrate when living with metastatic lung cancer.

I did it! I turned 39!!

That may not sound like much of an accomplishment, but the horrible statistics that come with a metastatic lung cancer diagnosis had us all believing that even making it to 38 would be a stretch.

So how does one celebrate such a milestone? For me, with a lot of reflection. I've been given the gift of time, and while my SuperDrug is doing a bang-up job controlling my cancer right now, I know my future is uncertain. Over the past few months, our lung cancer community has endured some incredibly heavy losses. Sadly, losing friends is nothing new to me anymore, but this recent string of deaths hit me particularly hard because several of them were people that I was sure would be the one to beat the odds. Young, previously in great health, with so much to offer the world, and yet cancer stole them away so quickly.

Sobering thoughts.

I have a lung cancer friend who always tells me that he looks forward to seeing me dance at my children's weddings. And every time he says it, my eyes well up with tears because I dare to hope that it might be possible.

Some days I catch myself playing a dangerous game, where my mind wanders to "what if" scenarios. What if I had known, ten years ago, that this was in my cards for the future? Would I have still gotten married and had kids, knowing that I was going to be dropping them into a horrible situation? Or would I have done the noble thing and hidden myself away, to spare others from heartache? A parent's job is to protect their children from harm; would I have been strong enough to destroy all the joy they have given me to save them from pain?

The Fault In Our Stars

“I'm a grenade and at some point I'm going to blow up and I would like to minimize the casualties, okay?”

― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

But, of course, I can't go back and change the past. All I can do is make the present memorable for them, and plant seeds for the future. One such seed is a wonderful/crazy dream that my husband and I have nurtured for close to a decade, the goal of opening a theatre together. With my lifespan greatly truncated, we decided that if there is ever a time to make it happen, the time was now. (You can watch a video and learn more about it here:

So yes, I still dream big. I dream that I might see my 40th birthday, I dream that I might plant more gardens, I dream that I might see more first snowfalls, I dream that I might guide my children through their adolescence. And some days I even dare to dream about dancing at their weddings.

But today … today I got to turn 39 years old, and that is a reason to celebrate. Happy birthday to me!

Tori Tomalia is many things: a mom, a wife, a theatre artist, a mediocre cook, a Buffy fan, a stinky cheese aficionado. She is also, unfortunately, a repeat visitor to Cancerland. Stay tuned for her continued adventures.



Blog: "A Lil Lytnin' Strikes Lung Cancer"

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