OK

One of the most annoying things (to me!) that I have heard—and often—about having cancer is that somehow this unwelcome and life-threatening condition is supposed to teach me something. I even hear it from my Ayurvedist, a practitioner I entrust with my health, though obviously I don’t always agree with everything she tells me. And I suspect I’d hear it from my acupuncturist as well, though she speaks in a different set of metaphors most of the time, regarding energy and blockages.

On the other hand, I cannot deny that my life has irrevocably changed since my diagnosis, and that some (the number varies) of these changes are more “positive” than not. I would have to include the existence of this group as an overall positive development in my life, for example, and it is an activity that I certainly would not have undertaken without my diagnosis. So there is that.

Given the upcoming holiday this week, and the general sense of relief and reprieve that I among others have been feeling since the election, I figure it’s timely to discuss what I do appreciate about my life right now. Perhaps it will be impossible for me to exclude thoughts of wistfulness or mourning about my prior life as I continue this exploration. But right now, I have to say that my life is pretty darn good—and that in fact it is perhaps “better” in some hard-to-measure ways than it was before. I don’t know; I’m not an objective observer by any means. Nevertheless, since my health is stable, so much better than it was a year ago, I am feeling very grateful this year. And there are many other positive elements that flow from this status, along with others that are unrelated to my illness but are reasons for gratitude all the same.

We’ll be hosting a Thanksgiving dinner at our house this Thursday for the first time in several years. Usually, there’s a command performance at my brother and sister-in-law’s, and I can’t recall the last time we’ve missed it. There were a couple of years where we tried to do two events—an early, lunch-time feast at home or at a friend’s and then a full dinner in the early evening at my brother’s an hour away—but as you might imagine that did not go very well. Everyone wound up feeling rushed and pressed for time, not at all relaxed and comfortable.

So this year my gratitude list starts here: with appreciation for our ability to do things differently because it fits our needs better, and because I’ve finally reached the limit to which I’ll go for the sake of duty. I’m very much looking forward to our houseful of relatives and friends on Thursday, even if it means I’ll be wiped out for several days afterwards. It’ll be worth it. My older daughter and I might find it a little challenging to share a kitchen for a couple of days—she’s a solo cook and baker, while I prefer to be a collaborative one—but underneath it all we’ll both be very happy to have this chance to make a celebration together like this. A simple pleasure but a deep one as well.

I’m thankful that we have enough financial stability this year to be able to host a holiday gathering. That’s not guaranteed, and it’s largely through the hard work of my husband that this is the case. I’m thankful to be well enough to start back to work a little bit, and yet for the foreseeable future, the burden will rest largely on him. I’m grateful that we’re both flexible enough to adjust to our changing circumstances with relatively good grace.

Please follow me over the curlicue for more expressions of gratitude, while you start thinking about comments you’d like to share in this regard.

Monday Night Cancer Club is a Daily Kos group focused on dealing with cancer, primarily for cancer survivors and caregivers, though clinicians, researchers, and others with a special interest are also welcome. Volunteer diarists post Monday evenings between 7-8 PM ET on topics related to living with cancer, which is very broadly defined to include physical, spiritual, emotional and cognitive aspects. Mindful of the controversies endemic to cancer prevention and treatment, we ask that both diarists and commenters keep an open mind regarding strategies for surviving cancer, whether based in traditional, Eastern, Western, allopathic or other medical practices. This is a club no one wants to join, in truth, and compassion will help us make it through the challenge together.

As I mentioned above, my overall health is much better now than it was a year ago, and I even have the photos to prove it. Exactly one year ago today, my husband and I attended the wedding of his second son—a lovely affair, surprisingly pleasant (given a history of tough family interactions). At the time, I thought I had enough hair to be able to go without a wig or headwrap and not scare the horses. Looking at the photos later, I am not so sure I was right; that was a patchy head of hair I had then, with lots of bare scalp peeking through. But that was then and this is now: I not only have hair, I have miraculously curly hair, which surprises and delights me every day. Frivolous, I know, but true all the same.

More importantly, I am grateful that our many children are growing into adulthood, finding their own paths and living their own dreams.

I am especially grateful for this circumstance now because just ten days after this wedding, my younger daughter was in a terrible state. I don’t want to say any more, other than that the difference a year makes is enormously gratifying. Eleven months ago, I wasn’t sure how we were going to make it through to the other side—and now here we are, trundling along. Things are not perfect, but they’re better.

I think most regular readers of the MNCC know that my husband, ProvokingMeaning, and I were married only six months before my diagnosis. Talk about putting the vows about “for better or worse” to the test! We have had our very low, very discouraged moments. We will again, I am sure. But somehow, when we get knocked down, we get back up again (with apologies….)

Dealing with cancer for almost two full years now has reminded me over and over again how little control I really have over my day-to-day circumstances, to say nothing over the prospects for my entire life. How much time and energy have I squandered in years past over the illusion of control! I might strive for control or certainty still, and I will probably never break my habit of making to-do lists for the day, week, and season—but at this point I think I do know better than to get bent out of shape when I don’t get things done as I had hoped. (You are all entitled to remind me of this brash statement on Wednesday evening.) I am grateful to learn at last that I really don’t have to, and can’t, do it all.

I am grateful to my health care team members and my medical brain trust, all of whom are gifted in many ways and very generous to me of their expertise and caring. I am grateful to my family members and friends who have stepped forward to help in crisis times. I am grateful to my support group friends and my teachers/facilitators in a variety of venues as I find my way back to health. I am grateful to my dear ZenTrainer and to everyone else here in the MNCC on a regular basis. I am grateful to my other Kossack friends, more of whom I’m meeting IRL all the time. I am grateful to be alive, to be relatively healthy and strong, to belong to a community or two in which I am an important and cherished member. I am grateful to have both love and work in my life.

A year ago I could not have said most of these things. A year from now, things might be radically different again. But now, today, and on Thursday, I will be grateful.

How about you? For what can you give thanks?

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