If you’re new to this blog, let me fill you in.

Last June, a brain surgeon told me I had an inoperable malignant fast-growing brain tumor called a Medulloblastoma. I was then told this brain cancer was terminal and I had between one month and one year to live. When I returned from the hospital after by brain biopsy, I went into my 17-year-old daughter’s bedroom, sat beside her on her bed, and told her the news.

We held each other and sobbed. It was just too big to even comprehend. But we knew I would never see her graduate college, or get married, or have children. I would only be present in her life as a guardian angel, which I didn’t even believe in.

But that initial call was incorrect. While the tumor was inoperable – and all those other things – it is not necessarily terminal. In fact, there is a 70 percent cure rate (or higher) for cases like mine. Not bad.

Knowing that there was now hope, I shifted gears, embraced Eastern practices (like acupuncture, herbs, a regimented diet and massage), and began radiation and chemotherapy. I am still in chemotherapy, but MRIs indicate the tumor is breaking apart and shrinking, if it’s not dead altogether.

So that’s where we stand today. I don’t know how much longer I’ll be getting chemo. My blood is struggling to produce white blood cells, which are the cells that fight infection, so we may end chemo after only four or five of the planned nine chemo infusions.

It’s been an interesting journey and one, strangely, that I’m glad I’ve traveled.

Having been a lifelong atheist, you could fit the amount of spiritual seeking I’d done in my 47 years into a thimble.

But as my friends and family rallied around to support us in this fight, we began to receive what seemed like boundless love. The love came from good friends, long-lost friends, family, and even strangers on the street (in fact, often strangers on the street). I began looking at different religions, asking anyone and everyone about their spiritual beliefs. This whole ride I’ve felt like I’ve had one foot in one world, and one foot in another world – and I’m not gonna lie, it’s been scary. I wanted to know if I planted my second foot in that other world, that, well, that it would be OK.

And I know this is obvious (sometimes I’m a little slow on the draw), but I finally got it. Most of the world’s religions are based on divine love. Not that they all practice that, but that’s a different issue. The important thing is that churches, temples, synagogues, mosques, you name it – attempt to offer community, support – and most importantly – love.

Today I’m going to get a hug from Amma. Amma is a spiritual leader from India who simply hugs people to alleviate their pain and suffering. Truthfully, I’ve kind of snickered under my breath about this hugging business of hers in the past. But not anymore. I have tried to abandon that glib hubris about anything that I can’t understand or see in plain view. I want to see for myself what 34 million people in the world have seen in Amma. And I have to say, I appreciate how she describes her religion as simply, “Love.”

Wednesday, something happened for me that at one time in the recent past I didn’t think would ever happen again.

I had a birthday.

As friends and family dropped by throughout the day, we shared hugs, laughing about our pasts, and crying about our futures (mostly tears of joy). Then after a beautiful dinner out with family, we came home. Jack went through the back gate instead of the front door, which is odd, but I didn’t think anything of it. Remember, I have chemo brain and not all of my pistons are working. And as he led me around the corner of the home and into the garden, the whole yard was filled with friends, neighbors and loved ones screaming, “SURPRISE!”

It was like getting love-bombed (which I then tried to extinguish with rivers of wine!). I just lost it. And for the next hour or so, I sobbed on the shoulders of every single guest, hugging each person and being overwhelmed by the pulsating, palpable, heavenly hugs. And I believe each and every one of those hugs packs the same punch as an Amma hug. Because those hugs contain the magical ingredient that Amma’s do. That’s right. Love.

So, to all of you who made this happen (Paula, Adabel, Jack, Rose, Sinclair, Augusta, Sofie, Andrea, and I’m sure many I didn’t even know who helped), thank you. And to all of you who were able to join us under the moon and among the balloons, thank you. And to everyone whom I didn’t see yesterday, hugs to you and thank you.

I love you all. And I know the love you have given me has made a 48th birthday possible.

Pictured above: Common Time (Featuring Sofie, Gabe, Alex and Sinclair) and Celene Ramadan of Prom Queen and Jason Goessl of The Pornadoes.

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