Thursday, November 23, 2006

Giving thanks

I’ve always thought about reasons to be thankful at Thanksgiving, but this year my feelings are amplified.

I’m thankful that I’m done with the 7 months’ journey that I took this year. I’m thankful that I feel better, healthier, stronger. I’m thankful that my 3-month check is negative, and that I hear new stories every week about some woman who had breast cancer once, and never had it again. I’m thankful that my hair is returning.

I’m thankful for great doctors and incredible nurses and insurance that lets me get whatever they say I need.

I’m thankful for all the friends who were better friends than I knew, who called and came over and sent e-mails and made sure I was hearing them even when I wasn’t reaching out to them—especially Maia, Christina, Alexandra. I’m grateful for an extended family, part of which I only gained 6 years ago, who offered everything from moral support to medical advice (Andrew) to some of the best cancer quips (“fucking bad news!” –Steffi) I’ve heard.

I’m thankful for books on tape from Bernadette and Lara, for Harry Potter movies from Alison, the Gilmore Girls from my mom, books from Judy. I’m thankful for flowers from my mom and dad, Chris J. and Melody, Chris D, Rick and Joanie. I'm thankful for scarves and good body-smelly things from Sarah. I'm thankful for Lissa's care package, with comic books and candied ginger and great CDs. I’m thankful for the juicer that Maia, Alison, Lara, and Ena all sent to keep me healthy and hydrated during chemo, and the book of juice recipes that were as yummy as could be. I'm thankful for the DVD player from Mom, Dad, and Dan that kept my mind off the needles every two weeks. I'm thankful for Rick and Joanie's four-leafed clover, and the acupressure wristband that staved off nausea even on the worst days.

I’m thankful for the cards, e-mails, and notes from so many people that I won’t even try to list them now, because I’m worried I’ll leave someone out, and everyone is so important to me. But later, I’ll go get all those cards (I’ve saved them all!) and come back and edit this post to include every name.

I’m thankful for the comments on my blog, which let me know that people were keeping track of me and interested in how I was doing.

I’m thankful for my parents, who cried on the phone when I told them my news, and then stiffened up just as strong as they could and insisted on being there for my surgery, washing my hair afterward, doing whatever little errands and help they could find. They answered the call when I was in the darkest weeks of chemo, each coming out for a full week to keep me company and bring me cheer and do more errands. They sat on the loveseat while I lay on the couch, ensconsced in pillows and misery, and talked or read or just were present. They sent flowers every single week. They kept track of every date. They hugged me and their arms told how much they loved me and wanted me to heal.

And I’m thankful for Noah, who had his own 7-month cancer journey by my side, and who travelled it carrying my burdens along with his own. I’m thankful for how he tried to give me ease in every way: going to every medical appointment, bringing me popsicles and drinks during my chemo drips, shaving my head for me when the last bit of hair had to go, holding me when I was desolate, playing Battleship when I was bored, making countless trips to the grocery store for the one palatable thing, making that call to my parents when I was really down, urging me to exercise, to get out in the world, to live life throughout treatment. He bit his tongue when he wanted to argue, bowed his head when I was short-tempered, and never looked at me differently when my hair was gone and my chest was a little lopsided. He celebrated the end of chemo, then the end of treatment, with as much ferocious joy as I did. I know that a lot of women face double the stress when they deal with cancer, because they have to fight not only a medical battle, but a whole bunch of personal ones, too. Noah was the strongest of a whole phalanx of people who encircled me in a web of linked arms, making sure that, while I might be jostled around a bit, I would never fall.

I can certainly feel sorry for myself, I can ask “why me,” I can resent the hell out of this experience. But it has also shown me how much I have to be grateful for, and this Thanksgiving, it’s so much that I can hardly contain the gratitude. So thank you all, and I wish you as much joy this year as health, as friends and loved ones, as the beauty of life, can bring.

I keep remembering kindnesses not mentioned here, and coming back to add them--so if I have unforgivably not mentioned one of yours, please check back! I'm editing a lot!


Anonymous said...

One of the most beautiful writings I've ever read. You set an example to all. Thank you for being so you.

Deb and Jim 680 said...

Just caught up since your end-of-treatment post. This one is incredibly beautiful, and the others are wonderful too. Sounds like you are in a very good place -- post treatment, back to the rest of your life, eyes and heart wide open, bursting with wisdom and compassion and spirit. Good for you Jen.