The Week of Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving was this past Thursday. One of the gifts that my cancer diagnosis gave to me was the ability to truly be thankful for small things. In years past, I intellectually knew that Thanksgiving is a day set aside to express thanks and gratitude for the things we have and the people in our lives. This year was truly a different experience for me, though. I have never been so truly, deeply and completely happy to celebrate the small, seemingly mundane moments of life.

In 2013, I had just gotten out of the hospital six days prior to Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving day, I could not stand up straight. I was hunched over because my incision pulled my abdominal cavity together tightly. It was impossible to hold my body in a fully upright position.

My husband and kids had signed up for the local YMCA Turkey Trot 5k on Thanksgiving day. I insisted on going to watch the race. It was physically difficult to stand up for an hour, but I did not want to miss seeing my kids and husband cross the finish line. As for the rest of the day, I barely remember anything from it. I know we enjoyed a family meal, but I honestly cannot remember any of the details.

This week has been an entirely different experience for all of us. Instead of watching my family run the Turkey Trot 5k, I happily signed us all up to run. I had friends tease me about how shocked they were that I would sign up for a 5k because it wasn’t a long enough race for me. Truthfully, I have never looked down on 5ks. On the contrary, I think they are a uniquely painful race. But it is true that I used to never run 5ks. This year, there is nothing I wanted to do more than go run with my daughters. I was ecstatic to get the opportunity to enjoy the experience with my kids, friends and neighbors, not worrying about time or pace, but soaking in the moment. I was grateful for the opportunity to be there with my daughters, and I was grateful that they were willing to spend the time with me.

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Thanksgiving afternoon, we had a lovely dinner with friends who have been through this long journey with us. We ate, talked, and laughed. I am truly grateful for the friends who have seen me at my absolute worst and who still choose to be my friend. I am grateful for the people who have supported our family along the way. I am so appreciative of the mothers who have helped me out with my kids during this past year. I am grateful to be able to share a meal with people I love.

I am grateful to be well enough to host a slumber party this year. I am thankful for the house filling with the laughter of girls who enjoy each other’s company. After a year of never knowing when I would be well enough to host other kids, there is no sweeter sound than the laughter of my daughters and their friends. I am grateful for the wonderful friends that my daughters have in their lives.

I am also so thankful for the opportunity I have been given to help other patients who have been diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. This week, I have had phone conversations and email exchanges with people who have recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I know how lonely and isolated I felt at times after my diagnosis. I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to say to others facing this illness, “You are not alone.”

This year, I truly learned that I am most thankful for the people our lives. All I wanted this year was to feel well, to spend time with my family and friends and to experience laughter and joy. I received all of those gifts and so many more. I am glad that I have been given the opportunity to feel such deep gratitude for what is truly important in life.

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