For the past 11 birthdays, I have had mixed emotions.
I’ve always felt a little sad, a little guilty.
Some people don’t like their birthday because they don’t like the attention, or the fact that they are aging.
For the past 11 years, I haven’t liked it because it means I am getting “further away” from Natalie.
I spent my 30th birthday earlier this month busy at work and then flying on an airplane with my BFF to Disneyland. I didn’t let myself stop and think about my sad association with birthdays for fear that I would get sad at the happiest place on earth.
But, today, I do.
Today is Natalie’s birthday. She would have turned 30 years old. But, I instead only have memories of a near-19-year-old. (Yes, she was only 18 when she passed away).
Sometimes I wish I even had videos of those memories. Because, as time passes, memories can change and even fade. I don’t want them to though.
I want to hold on to them for as long as possible.
Happy birthday, Natalia.
[Note: I wrote this post at the end of December and with the holidays and going out of the country, I never published it. But, this is something important to me, so I am sharing it now.]
Natalie never made it to the point of being healthy enough for a bone marrow transplant.
I’d like to think that if she had, there would have been a match waiting for her.
Because, not all blood cancer patients who require a bone marrow transplant for treatment have a family match. This means they need a donor — someone who is not related to them who happens to be a match.
Somewhere in between working in health care field for four years and the impact Natalie has had on my life, I’ve known I wanted to join the National Bone Marrow Donor Registry. It’s “just a cheek swab” to join the registry. If you’re matched with a patient in need, then, well, it’s a little more than that.
“Doesn’t it hurt?” people have asked upon learning I finally joined the registry.
Yes, drawing liquid marrow out of the back of your pelvic bone with a needle doesn’t sound fun. But, it could save someone’s life.
Natalie was 17 years old when she passed away. My friends and I were 17 mourning the death of our dear friend. Kids shouldn’t have to mourn the death of their friends. At 17, we were all still just kids.
So, I’m just doing all that I can do, while I can, to help others who need it.
I know that Natalie would do the same.