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Monday, November 28, 2011

The birthday that almost wasn't

This truly is the birthday that almost wasn't.

A little over four years ago, after my diagnosis of esophageal cancer that September, I questioned whether I'd make it to age 50, let alone 52.

I remember telling myself over and over that failure was not an option. Going through chems and rads, then the intense surgery were better than the alternative, which was basically a quick death via starvation.

My many friends and family kept my spirits up. My friends at work made me feel like a million bucks. I have a wonderful table book of notes and well wishes from my friends at work compiled by Katherine Ramirez Massey, well, before the Massey was added.

So age 48 came that November. We celebrated that I'd made it that far. A few days later, daughter Jennifer married Chris Kuz, with my Mom at the ceremony after months of hospitalization and rehab. All was going pretty well as my body recovered from the radiation and chemicals that helped save my life during a monthlong cooling off period leading up to surgery.

Surgery finally came the Saturday before Christmas 2007, and then I was stuck in Florida Hospital for several weeks, some of that time unconscious or so well drugged I don't remember most of it.

After that was recovery, return to work and my friends -- another excuse for a party -- and my desk surrounded by my alter egos called Battle Keiths, wonderful inspirations created by Jonathan Walton, a/k/a Peter Parker, and Sara Fajardo, a soon-to-be amazing mom now living in Kenya of all places.

Soon after, daughter Aimee married Luis Nunez and later added Emily and Riley to the family. Years continued to pass. Age 50 came and went. I've made new friends, lost a couple to this and other diseases and changed jobs.

And as each birthday comes and goes, they are both reminders and blessings. They remind me of the crap I went through -- and humbling because they almost didn't happen. Each is a blessing, which shouldn't be squandered.

So I will end this post with a reminder to take care of yourselves. Especially when it comes to the potential for cancer of the esophagus. So many of my friends work in high-stress environments. Heartburn is rampant in our business -- and heartburn can cause cancer. ( The best way to avoid the problem is to treat heartburn early. See your doc and get screened. Don't do what I did -- ignore the symptoms for years and years. That way you can think about other things on your birthday other than a moment in time that almost didn't include you.