In 1998 when I had breast cancer my sister Anne came to visit on Labor Day weekend. I had just begun chemo and all of my hair was coming out in gigantic clumps. It felt awful and I decided it was time for the remaining hair to go. Anne shaved my head. I remember sitting in the bathtub afterward, soaking in Mr. Bubble and crying. It was the weekend of my 37th birthday.
As horrible as that memory is, a wonderful new tradition was born that Labor Day. My mother, sister, brother and I now get together every Labor Day weekend for a visit. My nearly 80-year old Mom just boarded a plane for her return flight to New York. My sister went home to Denver yesterday. It is a big expense and not always convenient, but every year they come. Only my brother gets off easy since he lives just down the road.
At my house Mom and Anne get fresh flowers in their rooms along with a favorite box of candy or dried fruit. My husband Jim chauffers us around, pours fabulous wines from his cellar and is in charge of birthday desserts. This year we had some mind-boggling macaroons. Last year, a Valrhona chocolate cake, the year before, gourmet cupcakes. These small traditions are precious to me.
This year is a bittersweet birthday. I’ve been through the worst of the BRCA surgeries and although I’m still a work in progress, I’m ready to move on. My sister Anne’s turn is next and we did spend some time during our visit talking about the nitty-gritty details. Not fun, but helpful for us both. As a previvor, my sister’s choices are different from mine. I hope that she will always be a previvor and never a survivor so we can have many more Labor Day reunions.
That is what I wished for this birthday weekend.