I’m 29 and Feeling Fine

Brittany Foster avatar

by Brittany Foster |

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The morning of my 29th birthday, on May 30, looked different than it did a year earlier.

On my birthday last year, I rolled out of bed crying in pain. It was only a few weeks after I had a thoracotomy to repair a congenital heart defect. I recall feeling every breath I tried to take because of the ripping pain across my back and chest. With every turn of my torso, I felt intense pain from surgical clamps and a fractured sternum.

Somehow, I found the strength to walk a quarter-mile down the street to pick out jewelry for my birthday from a local gift shop. That was the beginning of my 28th year.

The last thing on my mind was celebrating life. I found it challenging to be thankful for a life that was surrounded by so much pain and discomfort. I did not see the point in celebrating.

I was depressed that my chest was causing me so much pain when I ate anything. I was frustrated with my body about the lengthy recovery time. I was angry with myself for believing that a surgery would give me quick relief. I remember telling my mom not to have a cake for me because I wouldn’t be able to eat it anyway.

I spent all of 2019 and the first half of 2020 working on slowly regaining my version of health. It was, and still is, one of the hardest and most painful fights so far. It is a challenge every day to heal both physically and mentally after a major surgery and all the trauma my body and mind have endured.

Although things are far from perfect, I try to remain thankful for life every day. This year on May 30, I woke up and felt extremely grateful for another year of life and being one year closer to a new decade.

Instead of waking up in pain and struggling to breathe, I woke up next to my puppy and my fiancé. I filled my lungs with as much air as possible, and I walked the quarter-mile to the track near my house. That walk took an entire day last year. This year, it was my warmup for a walk and slow jog around the track.

After my walk, I still had energy to keep going and continue with my day. I didn’t feel like I needed to take a nap for a few hours just to recover some strength.

The best part of my birthday was sitting around a backyard fire at night with some of the closest people in my life, who have been there through the best and worst times. Instead of telling my mom I didn’t want a cake, she surprised me with one. I wasn’t expecting to feel as emotional in that moment as I did.

All the emotions were because I felt proud of myself and how far I have come in a year. I was able to blow out the candles remembering that last year I could barely take a breath. Although I didn’t eat the actual cake because of my slow stomach motility, I could eat all the frosting.

I know there are no perfect years in my life, just as there are no perfect weeks or days. The reality is that my life will continue to have moments of pain, suffering, frustration, and sadness. My 28th year, and the moments of suffering, help me to stay humble. They allow me to reflect and realize my own strength and perseverance.

Whenever I can run or walk on a track, I feel blessed. Whenever I can take a few bites of something I want to eat, I am thankful. Being able to live this way is pretty amazing, and I can’t wait to see what my 29th year holds.

May 2020, left, vs. May 2019. (Courtesy of Brittany Foster)


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Carol Volckmann avatar

Carol Volckmann

HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY Brittney! Eat dessert first and all the frosting! You have had quite a year. To wake on your birthday next to the man you hold so dear to your heart and love of your life ... and your fur child how grand is that! You deserve 2020/2021 a birthday year of joy and laughter - these will get you through any rough times. Sending lots of love and appreciation for what you have meant in my life! Hugs,


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