Happy Birthday, and Many Happy Returns

Annie Dixon avatar

by Annie Dixon |

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Shhhhhh! Today is my husband’s birthday. I’m throwing him a surprise party, and you’re all invited! In fact, you’re already here, because it’s virtual and I’m hosting it remotely. So let’s get planning …

Editors: Hide behind the colon. Friends and family (who loyally read my column) can all conceal themselves in the parentheses. And you, dear reader, please wait quietly between those commas. Then, when our birthday boy walks into the lower paragraphs, we’ll all jump out and shout, “Surprise!” And I’ll give him his present!

Birthdays past

Ronald and I have celebrated a lot of birthdays together since we eloped on one of mine over 30 years ago. In fact, since then we have not spent any of them apart. We have partied in town and out of state, in restaurants and at work, in between the Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains, and with a water view on both sides of the Atlantic, by ourselves, with friends, with family, and without a care.

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Six years ago, when he hit a milestone birthday, we were happy and healthy and marked the occasion at home, alone and content. Six weeks later, he was in the hospital trying to stay alive while the doctors narrowed down a rare diagnosis. When he was released, we began the long adjustment to living with atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome (aHUS) for whatever was to be the rest of his life.

We looked forward to the return of energy and stamina and learned to work around fatigue in the meantime. Future birthdays, holidays, and even next days were unpredictable and not guaranteed. We canceled annual parties and travel plans and celebrated good blood counts by the month as we slowly and deliberately made our way to marking another year of living with aHUS.

Future birthdays

Nobody knows how many birthdays lie ahead. But when you have faced the possibility of having reached your quota, every next one is a pleasant surprise. These are bonus birthdays that feel like finding a winning lottery ticket baked into your cake.

We may have less energy for celebrating them, but we’ll take more delight in each unpromised birthday because they are all the more precious. They give us something to look forward to and feel more like an accomplishment than a mere observance.

We will no longer waste our wishes longing for stuff when we blow out the candles. We hope for experiences and savor the variety of emotions.

Birthday present

So now, here we are, about to achieve his sixth birthday as a rare disease patient, with a layer of pandemic paranoia sprinkled on top. We have not gone anywhere outside our controlled environment in over two years. It’s time to change that. Wait until he sees what I got him. He has no idea because I didn’t show him the draft of this column. Shhhhh, here he comes.

He’s opening the paragraph, peeling back the first sentence, and … all together now: SURPRISE! CONGRATULATIONS! For he’s a jolly good fellow!

Happy birthday, Ronald! We’re going to the beach! Lake side or river side, I’ll drive you there. (Sorry, ocean side not included in this offer; I’m not driving that far and through tunnel traffic to be surrounded by rowdy underage drinkers on spring break.) We are getting a room with a view and a porch and doing a whole lot of nothing! We are built for this.

And just so I don’t cheat you out of the anticipation, you get to look at the options over dinner tomorrow night. Your favorite fresh fish is arriving from that awesome seafood delivery company in Maryland. All we have to do is pick up some of our good local coleslaw to go with it.

Awww, look: He’s getting all teary. I think he likes his present. Thanks, y’all, for coming to our surprise party! Don’t forget to take your party favors with you: I just wrapped up some simple encouragement with a big attitude for celebrating birthdays — or any days. Enjoy it with the ones you love, whatever you or they may be dealing with.


Note: aHUS News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of aHUS News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to aHUS.

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