I love the French word for birthday: anniversaire.

It sounds a lot better than date de naissance. It also seems to suggest that birthdays (while fun to celebrate, and to be joyeux about), are perhaps no more–or less–important than other memorable dates in our lives.

They’re anniversaries.

I know four people who are celebrating birthdays–anniversaires–this week, and one whose wedding anniversary is Saturday. My son’s 19th birthday, May 8, 1991, was a memorable one, but not in a good way: on that date, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

It was the day after his last final exam at the end of his freshman year in college. Over the next 3 1/2 months, he endured invasive brain surgery and 5 weeks of radiation therapy–and he survived cancer.

His last day of radiation was exactly 4 years ago today: August 20, 2010.

It was a Friday, and the end of his first week back at school. His head was bald and his spirits were high. He was full of hope and grateful to be alive. A few weeks later, he joined the Survivors Committee of UGA Relay for Life. If you don’t know about Relay (I didn’t, until cancer happened to my family), it works to raise money for the American Cancer Society, to fight against the disease and find a cure.

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Since then, my son has had countless (it seems) MRIs, all of which have been clean. He has earned his undergraduate degree, and he just started grad school.

And he’s had 4 more birthdays.

My daughter is a sophomore at UNC, and she has joined UNC Relay for Life.

Joyeux anniversaire!

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I’ve written the story of my emotional struggle as my son battled cancer. It’s called ALL THE ABOVE, and will be released in 2015. 

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