Every year for my birthday I write myself a birthday card with resolutions for the coming year. I open the card the following year and reflect on what year it has been. This year, I have no idea where that card is, nor do I think it matters what I set out last year.
Last year, David had finished a course of aggressive radiotherapy and chemo. We were beginning to sort out our life post treatment and post pandemic. Things felt like they were turning around for us. Whatever I wrote in that card most likely reflected that.
That's the thing about life, as much as there are things within our control, there are equally if not more outside of our control.
Cards on the table...
Earlier this year, I thought I would be alone today on my 47th birthday.
David's tumour returned with a vengeance and although he was in the best hands the country had, there was still a chance he wouldn't make it. We were simultaneously facing homelessness and financial ruin on top of his cancer.
I didn't have any chance to reflect on anything that was happening at the time. 2023 has felt like continuous bulbs flashing in my face without letting my eyes adjust.
Cancer *flash* Eviction *flash* Business failure *flash* 2.5 months in Southampton *flash* Leaving Cornwall *flash* Moving to Somerset *flash* Ongoing health complications *flash* Failing eyesight *flash*
Yet as I sit here typing this, our three legged cat Rosie is curled up next to me. David is in bed resting with Alys no doubt cuddled into him. Tilly is in her cubby behind the chair in the lounge avoiding the other cats and waiting for David to get out of bed so she can sit next to him and keep guard.
I am not alone.
David is alive. We are making new memories together as he recovers and are both excited about life again. Somerset has reinvigorated us both. Nothing could have prepared us for this year but we're still here, going stronger than ever. Life looks very different for us on every level but we're both alive and together.
Our girls are with us and these Cornish girls are thriving here in Somerset.
But you know what else, each morning in Southampton during David's hospital stay; I physically woke up alone but never felt alone. I should have felt alone given everything thrown at us and feeling like I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. I should have felt alone but I didn’t, not once did I feel alone.
From the four corners of the globe our family and friends supported me and helped me through what felt like a ghost ship floating through an abyss. A friend of mine recently said that good friendships don't happen by accident, they are a reflection of what type of friend you are.
Those words lit me up like a beacon in the darkness. I would never be able to describe fully the gratitude I have for the love and support I have seen this year. To be humbled by it is a gross understatement.
I started sharing updates on social media as a way to inform everyone as to how David was doing in the hospital. It was easier than having individual conversations. What I never imagined was how through exposing my vulnerability I would find the strength and courage each day to get out of bed and fight for him, fight for my family's survival and somehow maintain some semblance of sanity.
I thought of my mother a lot during that time in Southampton. She always put on a brave face when times were tough and would just say to us "siguimos Pa'lante." That word "Pa'lante" would come to define this year like no other. Unlike my mother, I couldn't wear a masque all the time. I did show my hurt. I showed my fear. I showed my happiness and I continue to show my gratitude.
I may have my moments when I need to be alone in order to recharge but I know that I am not alone.
I know that we are not alone. I know that each and every person in my life is not alone because we have each other and we have shown one another this through our friendship, love and support of one another. 2023 has been some year huh? Well let’s be honest, would any of us have survived the last 5 years without one another?
With so much darkness in this world, let gratitude be the light that navigates us through it.
Thank you all for a birthday like no other. A birthday that is truly a celebration of life.
John Lugo-Trebble considers this more of a space to engage personal reflections and memories with connections to music and film.