Chemotherapy in my Birthday Suit

What was your last birthday like?  Let me tell you about mine.  It was incredible.

Birthdays have never really been that important to me.  Mainly because I never really felt that important to other people.  There have been many attempts to make me happy on my birthday.  One year we went bowling.  One year the whole theme was aliens (90s right?).  I have a VHS video of my 2nd birthday.  We would watch it just to see me burst into tears during the prayer before we eat.  I also got Cinderella for my birthday that year (guess that explains alot…..mainly the Disney obsession).  There were many sleep overs with lots of Pizza, cake, and Nintendo 64 (Goldeneye people….Goldeneye).  Then there were the years where everyone was determined to give me a surprise birthday party…..yeah only worked once.  I caught you all every other time!  But that one time scared me real bad, so kudos I suppose.  To me my birthday was never about the presents.  It was always about the people.  I really feel loved when people tell me what I mean to them.  Also I really enjoy just spending time with people whom I love and who love me.  It is a good thing that birthdays are never really about the presents, because I am the worst at hiding how I really feel about my gift that I receive.  So naturally I turn red anytime I open gifts from people.  Having wedding showers was the worst for this.  One year for Christmas my grandmother got me a statue of an Indian princess sitting on a rock with two wolves on either side (“Nanny, I LOVE it, I can’t wait to put this on display and impress my friends.  Nothing says greatness like this Indian princess with wolves.”).  My grandmother loved figurines so we got our fair share.  I digress.  Birthdays are a time where people treat you like they treat you at Disney World.  They are kind to you, they praise your accomplishments, they celebrate that you are in their lives, and they genuinely care for you.  Birthdays have always been great for my ego.  Like I said, I feel loved when people tell me how much they love me and appreciate me.  This is typically known as today as giving words of affirmation or encouragement.  I need this daily.  Birthdays give this to me in steroid form.  Then Facebook was created.

I remember those first years when Facebook was up and running.  I remember getting tons more messages and posts on my wall during my birthday than any other time.  Every year it got better.  One friend posted right before their birthday, “let the birthday messages commence.”  Boy were they right.  It really goes to show that a little two word phrase can make a person feel so much better than they were the few seconds ago.  It is the little things that build up and give us strength to make it through our day.  The little messages.  Today so many  people wished me happy birthday.  I almost never return the favor, but that is not why people take the time.  They simply pay love forward.

Thanks to skipping one week of chemo therapy, I had a chemo treatment today….on my birthday.  I honestly was dreading it.  I am over halfway through with chemo and I am ready for it to be over.  But you see, there was much more in store for me this day that I would ever imagine.  At school, the teachers on my hall had a big breakfast pitch in for me.  They knew I wouldn’t eat lunch at school so they had breakfast.  I ate 5 doughnuts.  And some other goods too.  Then I entered my room just to find it completely decked out with balloons and streamers that my first period students set up for me.  Then as they came in one by one after the bell, each student had something different: cupcakes, drinks, rotel, more doughnuts, candy, etc.  Such a kind gesture for their teacher.  It meant the world to me.  I sounded so corny asking the students to take a group picture with me, but you know I need that memory.  Next period, three students arrive at my door with party hats and t-shirts that said, “Happy Birthday, Yelverton!” on them.  Again such a kind gesture just to make me feel special.  I even got a few dollars. It’s the small stuff people.  The little things.  Those are the ones that really count.  Hug a teacher tomorrow.

12:00 – game time – chick fil a – poly sauce – numbing cream – blood work – extremely low white blood count – fear that we would skip treatment – treatment goes forward – and then: enter my sister with a cake and again party hats.

Last time I had treatment, Becca thought it would be cool if we brought a cake up to the chemo dock to share since it was my birthday.  So after I got my piece, Carly and Becca brought cake to all the nurses at the Cancer Center.  Celebrate always.  Celebrate the small things.  Life is short….eat cake first.

My day was not over.  After the Facebook messages, the phone calls, the texts, the cake, the doughnuts, the poisonous liquids, the benadryl coma, and the drive home, Carly and I saw our house and huge banners covering the front door.  In the mailbox was more mail than I have ever received in my life in one day.  I can’t tell you how encouraging the words were in those letters.  Tears of blessing have followed.

Today was a great day.  Today was a terrible day.  Today was just another day in this Cancer journey.  Today I realized that, “Wow, I am loved” by the people around me.  It is one thing for God to love you and another to have Him provide others around me to distribute that love in a new way. I can’t put into words how humbling that is.  You reading this is humbling.  You taking time to respond to my words is humbling.  It truly amazes me.  Thank you.  Thank you for loving me through this.  Thank you for reading my journey.  God has surrounded me with such a great cloud of witnesses and friends and family.  Thank you.  

This has been the greatest birthday.  Because today, not only did I celebrate one more year alive, but I also actively pursued living until my next.  I had chemotherapy on my birthday, so that I could have another birthday.  And I will.  Next year though, I’ll skip the chemo.  I love you all.

“Thank you for being a friend.” – Golden Girls

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.” – C. S. Lewis

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, the other can pick them up, but pity the one who falls and has no one to help them up!” – Ecc. 4:9-10

“A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.”  Proverbs 17:17

Journey Strong Dear Readers – Thanks for being a friend.

2 thoughts on “Chemotherapy in my Birthday Suit

  1. Beautifully written!! I love the Lewis quote; his chapter on friendship in The Four Loves is tremendous. May God bless and keep you, dear friend.


  2. Stay strong Mr. Yelverton! I know I haven't been by since I was told you were diagnosed, and I am sorry for that! You are the best teacher a student could ask for! I am glad I was put not only on you math class but also in your homeroom in 10th grade! You have been in my prayers since I have been told. God sure has blessed you this year, to show that there are people out there that care for even if it is a student like me!
    -Caitlyn Embry


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