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I Used to Be Happy about My Birthday

My mother was forty-nine when she died of primary pulmonary hypertension. She was a non-smoker and a non-drinker, but she had a tremendous amount of stress in her life. After being told she could not have a management job because she was a woman, she sued her employer for discrimination. These were the days of the “women’s liberation movement.”
My mother won her lawsuit, but she died before it was settled. I blame the stress of the lawsuit on her illness and untimely death. 

I was in nursing school when my mother died. I went on to a career in pediatrics with special needs children. Then later, and for the past thirty years, as a case manager.
I used to celebrate every birthday, and especially my fiftieth, when I reached an age my mother never saw. I celebrated that year with a beach vacation. And I’ve celebrated every year since.
But now, as I approach my sixty-second birthday, I think more about illness and what the remaining years may bring for me and my siblings. I’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis, and my brother-in-law has cancer. I see patients, some younger than me, with terrible illnesses, and I wake each morning with aches and pains. I wonder: What will the future hold for me
Case managment has it’s own special kind of stress. Patients rarely understand our role and are rarely grateful for the amout of work we put into arranging a safe and successful discharge plan. 
I don’t want to die from a stress-related illness, and plan to work only PRN soon. I want time to enjoy my family and time to travel. 
I hope that I have at least twenty more years, and that these are mostly healthy. But I know I am much closer to the end than the beginning.
For as long as possible, I want to celebrate, not fear, my birthdays.

Lynn O’Donnell

Lewisville, Texas 


1 thought on “I Used to Be Happy about My Birthday”

  1. I am inspired by your sharing. My mom also died at 49, so I think we can only find our own way to make meaning out of such an early loss. You hav clearly done a beautiful job with this. I admire and celebrate you.

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