The birthday present

I’m afraid it is time for another small confession.

One of the prompts for my visit to Cambodia was to continue a strange practice which started on my trans-siberian epic journey 12 years ago.  Wait a minute, how many years ago?  Impossible!  Well, however many years ago it was, it sparked the practice of spending my birthdays in Asia.  Over the past 12 years I have spent my birthdays in Nepal (several), Thailand, Mongolia, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and of course the one where it started – China.  I have a strange pull to spend the day in a different Asian country each year if possible.  Hence the Cambodia visit.

When I revisit my thoughts from this time last year, I realise how far I really have come.  Last year I spent a quiet and reflective day, and I can see just how much I was still wrapped up in a cancery space emotionally and physically.  I had only just started going “topless” a couple of weeks previously, braving my scalp stubble to the world, and was still suffering from the later stages of shingles.

For the first time since starting to blog, I am going to do something really radical just to highlight how far I have come indeed……..

This is a photo.  Of me.  Last year.  On my birthday.

I am becoming less precious about being anonymous, and while I do not like photos of myself (especially the ones where I have “cancer” stamped clearly on my forehead), I do feel more able to come out from behind my protective barrier.  And one big reason is that I feel able to share a picture from my birthday this year, here in Cambodia.

My day was firmly about living in the present.  None of know what is ahead and with the cancer lens in front of our eyes, fear and anxiety are never far away.  So I grasped the mettle and decided to do something I have long wanted to do and not think of the distant future and what might or might not happen.  I booked myself an “off the beaten track” trip for the day and despite torrential monsoon rain, I had an incredible day, slithering around villages and clambering over temples like an aging, bespectacled female Indiana Jones!

I still have my anxieties, and I still fear the return of cancer.  I know that won’t change and will intensify and fluctuate with scares and checks.  But for today I have discovered that I can live in the immediate, here-and-now present.  And that is the best birthday present possible.

17 thoughts on “The birthday present

  1. Happy birthday. I’m so glad your present was so calming, to live in the present and not think about future developments. We just don’t know what life will bring. What an adventure you had!

    • Thanks Jan – Yes, it is a great place to find – not discounting fears of the future but knowing that I am making the most of this time when I am feeling good. A real confidence building adventure! 🙂

  2. Darling lady, I am so glad to know you. I love your birthday tradition! You sure don’t fool around, do ya?? And when I look at you, I don’t think cancer. I think insightful, kind, adventurous woman. xxoo

    • What lovely words K – thanks everso (blushes!) You know it is entirely mutual – connecting with amazing amazon women like you has been the unexpected and heart warming real silver lining of the shitty cancer cloud.

      I’m glad there are still plenty of countries in Asia for future birthdays – the best scenario would be to run out of them 😉 xx

  3. What a wonderful way to spend your birthday FBG! And I certainly understand what you are saying about feeling “less precious” about anonymity. I’m right there with you on that! There’s something about being firmly a part of this wonderful vibrant community that brings out this need to share in lifes ups and downs. I’m glad your birthday this year was one of lifes ups. Rach 🙂 xxxx

    • Thanks so much R – your own blog posting about your birthday really made me think a lot about the day, and makes me realise that I am really lucky to be in this space just now, so I must value it. It has also made me think a lot about the solidarity and support we have online. What a great crowd of feisty folks we are, despite the particular details of our situation and cancer experience varying enormously. Love, hugs and thanks to you, Philippa xx 🙂

  4. Happy Birthday! 🙂

    Thanks for your comments on my blog. Reading about your experiences has helped put mine into perspective, something I really need right now.

    I am planning a proper birthday celebration next year. Normally I don’t bother that much but it will be my 50th plus it coincides with exactly a year from when I finished active treatment. Some milestones are really worth celebrating! 🙂

    • It’s good to connect with you – I am just sorry I can only access your blog when I am not at home! Your postings resonated very much and I do hope that you start feeling better and stronger. I just found that it would strike me some days that I was able to do something which i had not been able to during the treatment phase, and these small milestones showed that I was moving forward. I think it is a great plan to mark your 50th in a special way – something to really focus on and work towards :)Very warm wishes to you. P 🙂

  5. I love this! Thank you so much for sharing and for reminding us we all need to live in the present. One of my favourite quotes is from who else other than Oprah when she says: “Breathe. Let Go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure.” Keep living the dream and I will keep living it vicariously through you until I can get back to exploring life off the beaten track again.
    Much love and stay safe!

    • Oh so true Terri, it has taken me a while to get to this place though! I keep reminding myself how fortunate I am in so many ways.

      Keep planning those adventures and I look forward to hearing your latest plans.
      Love and warm wishes

    • Thank you so much – I had a really great time:)

      I just loved your Unbucket list post and am thinking of a follow on one here……
      Warm wishes
      Philippa 🙂

  6. What a fantastic way to spend the day Philippa! And what a great tradition too. I love your umbrella photo – so green, so lush. And a reminder of the importance of ‘now’, thanks.

    • Thank you sarah – I just loved it, and having a full week in Siem Reap meant I could keep exploring day after day – it was just perfect. That umbrella is great – it is used as much for sun as for rain, it is made of a kind of reflective material.

      Yes, it really made me value the present. Very warm wishes to you.
      P 🙂

  7. Oh, what a lovely birthday present you gave yourself! I’m so glad you enjoyed yourself. I so know what you mean about being camera shy. My son just graduated from college and there I was still clinging to my cap and plopping it on my head when the cameras came out! But I also feel incredibly free, and that comes from the support of this amazing online group of people, including you, that I have come to know.

    Happy Birthday!!

    • Thanks N – oh didn’t I just give myself a treat!! I am utterly thankful that it was possible in all senses.

      Yes, it is a strange thing about the camera isn’t it? And how much our lives have changed and been enriched with our online world. I can’t imagine life without it and the incredible community we have formed. Thank you too :)P

  8. Pingback: Many happy returns – a European birthday for a change | Feisty Blue Gecko - a tail of the unexpected

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