Celebrating life and defying the odds: Turning 50 with PH

My birthday spurs my gratitude for the small victories of my 'bonus' years

Jen Cueva avatar

by Jen Cueva |

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Turning half a century old is a remarkable milestone! When I was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension (PH) almost 19 years ago, I was told that I had only three to five years left. Each birthday after those first five years feels like a bonus.

So far, I’ve had 14 bonus birthdays. But Oct. 28 marked an especially noteworthy one: my 50th.

PH and celebrating life

Turning 50 holds different meanings for different people. Some may reflect on accomplishments and goals yet to be achieved, while others may feel apprehensive about aging. For me, it’s a celebration of life and the countless blessings that come with it.

Living with PH has taught me to cherish every day I wake up, and I imagine that’s true of most of us with a chronic illness. Each passing year reminds me of how far I’ve come and the obstacles I’ve overcome in my journey with this disease. Every birthday reminds me that I’ve defied the odds and continue living life to the fullest.

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Finding joy in small victories and surprises

Two women stand torso to torso, their faces turned to the camera. Both have blond hair; the one on the left wears dark pants, a maroon top, and a brown purse, while the other wears gray pants and a white shirt with thick gray stripes. Behind them is a banquet table with a gray tablecloth and various glasses and napkins on top. Above it are many purple balloons, with some white, and a dark purple banner reading "Happy birthday."

Jen and her bestie, Gwen, at Gwen’s surprise party last month. (Courtesy of Jen Cueva)

One of the most significant lessons I’ve learned from living with PH is to find joy in small victories. Every birthday, anniversary, and holiday spent with loved ones is a cause for celebration. It’s not about extravagant gifts or elaborate parties; it’s about treasuring the moments and memories with those who matter most.

This year, I’m immensely grateful to have been healthy enough to fly to Chicago and surprise one of my best friends, Gwen. Her birthday falls a day before mine, and she was diagnosed with sarcoidosis last year. Along with her daughters and her mother, I had the privilege of helping plan her surprise 50th birthday party, which she truly deserved.

Living life on my terms

Turning 50 has brought me to a point where I’m comfortable living on my terms. Living with a chronic illness has taught me to prioritize my physical and emotional well-being and not let societal expectations dictate my choices.

Whether it’s the passage of time or the enduring management of a chronic illness, I have shed the need to conform to society’s conventional measures of success or milestones. Instead, I prioritize what genuinely brings me joy and satisfaction: cherishing moments with loved ones, pursuing my passions with unwavering determination, and nurturing my well-being.

Grateful for every bonus year

As I celebrate my 50th birthday, I’m immensely grateful for every bonus year I’ve been given. I’m fortunate to have been diagnosed in this era, when medicine is improving year after year, and treatment options have expanded since my diagnosis. It serves as a reminder to appreciate the present moment and not take anything for granted.

Living with PH has taught me to appreciate the little things in life — in my case, being able to breathe freely, having symptom-free days, or simply waking up each morning. These seemingly ordinary moments hold immense value for someone with a rare and chronic illness. They remind me to embrace life’s blessings and savor every single day.

Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.


Sally Hoffman avatar

Sally Hoffman

Happy Birthday Jen! May you enjoy many more.

Jen Cueva avatar

Jen Cueva

Hi, my dear PHriend, Sally! Thank you so much for reading my column. It means so much that you took the time to leave me a comment and your birthday wishes.

I hope you are doing well, my dear. I miss seeing you in the PH News forums. How have you been managing?

Hugs and love are coming your way.

mike avatar


HBD, Jen. I'll always be slightly ahead of you: I'm 54 with 26 years of PH behind me, and lots more in front of me. I'm sure that's true for you, too. Enjoy!

Jen Cueva avatar

Jen Cueva

Hi Mike, wow, 26 years of PH behind you is awesome., my PHriend! Yes sir, I hope to have many more years ahead of me, too. Thanks for the birthday wishes and stopping to comment on my column.

Happy holidays to you and your family!


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