Today is my 35th birthday. It probably goes without saying that birthdays mean something very different to me now. I am so thankful to be sitting here today, so incredibly happy to be able to celebrate this day with my family — especially my father, because today is his birthday also. Instead of talking about myself and how grateful I am, I’m going to take this opportunity to write about my Dad. My father was just 23 years old on September 26, 1978, the day I came into this world. I always tease him and say that I don’t need to buy him birthday gifts because I gave him the best gift he could ever ask for when I was born. Dad served four years as a Seabee in the U.S. Navy and left the service to raise me. My mother was pretty young when she gave birth to me and not quite ready for the responsibility of motherhood, so my father stepped up to the challenge and began his new career as a single father. He had help from friends and family so he wasn’t truly alone, but even with help being a single parent isn’t easy. I can’t thank him enough for the sacrifices he made as a young man — sacrifices that most men probably wouldn’t make now, let alone back then. Dad worked swing shifts at the local VA hospital in order to provide for me and it was many years before he met a woman as amazing as him that would lead to the wonderful family that I have now (we’ll save that story for another time). It wasn’t all sunshine and roses — I obviously become a teenager at some point — but we all survived. Dad was always there for me, sometimes whether I wanted him to be or not, and now he is here for me in a way that neither of us ever imagined. Since my diagnosis my father has made the long drive up here too many times to count. He’s driven in Boston to take me to doctor’s appointments and changed poopy diapers, both things that he detests. He’s cooked and cleaned and run countless errands. He’s held me while I cried. Dad, today you are 58 and I am 35. I want to thank you for all you’ve done for me, and for all you will do for me. We don’t have an easy road ahead of us, but I know you will be there by my side the entire way. So today I wish you the happiest of birthdays. You are an amazing father and I love you so very much.