The Last Birthday Girl

By Laura Edwards
The Last Birthday Girl in 1982

On Tuesday, I’ll celebrate my last-ever birthday.

Okay, so not really. But I’ll be 29, and since I don’t care to turn 30, I’ve decided that at the very least, March 1, 2011 will be the last time I officially recognize my new age.

Despite my disdain for the number 30, chances are good that I’ll celebrate many future birthdays. Over the years, I’ve dodged plenty of bullets. I got off to a rocky start, suffering a severe brain injury at birth. Soon after, I became the first of two of my parents’ three children to have brain surgery. Then, when I was five, I took a nasty fall from the top of a high dive and landed on my back on the concrete pool deck. Eleven years later, I got in the first of three major car accidents. I’m particularly lucky to have walked away from the second. And in 2009, I had a lymph node removed during a cancer scare.

All of those things are safely behind me now. I still have scars on my head and my stomach from the intracranial shunt I sported as an infant, but a lime sherbet Popsicle and a spell in the shade took care of the diving board incident. The cars involved in the accidents really took it on the chin, but every single time, I walked away shaken, and nothing more. Oh, and the offending lymph node? It was benign.

These days, my biggest health issue is the fact that I’m an orthopedic train wreck – something I brought on myself and conveniently ignore whenever I lace up my shoes and head out for a run on Charlotte’s finest asphalt. When I look in the mirror and see signs of my ice cream obsession and a head of hair that’s not quite as blonde as it used to be, I suddenly remember that I’m not seventeen anymore. But in that same mirror, I also see a girl who got a single good copy of the CLN1 gene. A girl who also got a bad copy, yes – but that copy’s nowhere to be found in the mirror. You see, in a fight between a good copy and a bad copy of CLN1, the good copy always wins. It’s only when you’re unlucky enough to get two bad copies that you have infantile Batten disease. And if that happens, chances are you won’t even be able to see your reflection in the mirror – or anything else. Those bad copies will have stolen your sight.

I’ve had my fun with this whole ‘last-ever birthday’ thing. Now, what I really want to do is thank God in advance for each and every last future birthday He decides to give me. Life is a gift, and I don’t take a single day for granted. I can’t. But I sure do have a hell of a chance at seeing tomorrow. My sister can’t say that. Because she got two bad copies. So if Taylor lives to celebrate her 30th birthday, it’ll be more of a miracle than anything in my life ever was. And if that day comes, I’ll give her one hell of a 30th birthday party.

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