When you have cancer, it’s so easy to focus on what you have lost and what you don’t have anymore. Trust me. I know. I do it constantly. While I know it’s not helpful, there are days where I live in a constant, “woe is me” state. It’s important to have those days. They’re real, honest depictions of living with disease. But when the dark clouds pass, we get to look at our lives and see all of the great things we have. Thanksgiving is a perfect excuse to do just that.
Last year I made a long list of things I was thankful for. Most of those things are still true. I’m still thankful for my family and friends. That is a given. I’m nothing without them. I’m thankful for my husband. We’ve had a rough year. Cancer is not easy on a marriage. But we are figuring it out and I’m thankful for that.
I’m thankful that I have eyebrows again and even though my eyelashes are much thinner than they used to be, I’m thankful that they are here. I’m thankful that I have found a new physical therapist who seems to be helping to manage my lymphedema. I’m thankful to have work in wonderful schools and work for so many amazing people and organizations.
I’m thankful that, as of yesterday, I am finished with the infusions for my clinical trial!!! Woot-woot!!! November 25 has been a date stamped on the calendar of my brain for more than a year. This date, which once seemed so far off that I was sure it would never come, happened! Yesterday!!!!
But as I was in the waiting room to see my oncologist, celebrating by myself (unlike my last day of chemo, I went solo for this one) I noticed new people I hadn’t seen before. They had that look in their eyes. Wet from holding back tears. I knew that look on their faces and the faces of their loved ones. They were summoning everything they had inside them to hold it together. Maybe yesterday was the day that they got the results of a mammogram. Maybe it was the day that the find out what is in store for the next year. Maybe it was their first day of chemotherapy. I saw them clutch their tea and try to not make eye contact with the others in the waiting room but then try to catch a glance of those who sat with them. Do they have the answers to what life will be like? What it will look like? Caregivers clutched the hands of their wives. They got up, suddenly hypersensitive to noise when a secretary was clicking her pen.
I remember all of this so well. This might have happened to me 13 months ago but being in that room brought it all back for me. It was so familiar. All of it.
My heart is with those people who are going into this holiday season with cancer and illness, whose lives are changing forever.
An hour later, I had gotten my infusion, my last free massage and it was time to say goodbye. Goodbye to Nina, my chemo nurse. Nina was my cancer mama. We developed a very close bond. I love Nina because she is caring but also firm, just like a mother. I could talk to her about anything that was going on in my life and she wouldn’t sugar coat it. She’d let me know what was worth worrying about and what I needed to let go. I knew I could count on her to take care of me through everything, and she did. Because your nurses aren’t just there to make sure you get your medication and don’t have allergic reactions to them. They are so much more than that. Nina was so much more than that to me. I am so thankful to have had her in my life and to have her as a friend. We said goodbye. There were tears. But I know I can come back anytime I want but “just to say hi.”
Nina walked me out, holding the door open for me to leave and then closed it behind me. There was a ritual to it. She was ushering me out of this life that I have been living for so long and telling me not to come back. But to go out and live. To live my life again. That simple act of opening and closing the door was so meaningful. So emotional.
Afterwards, I left the cancer center. I won’t need to be back for three months. Three whole months!! I am thankful for that.
I celebrated by going to a nearby coffee shop and getting myself a cappuccino and a warmed up chocolate croissant. Of course, I did work while eating it. Life must go on. But it was still a nice treat. I am thankful for chocolate croissants.
Now, it is officially Thanksgiving. Later we are going out to eat. After the year we have all had, no one felt like cooking. We are all so tired. But we are going to the restaurant where my husband works so, in a sense, we will all be together.
This morning, the thing I am most thankful for in this world, Oliver and I got to spend some quality time together. He wanted to take the Q train over the Manhattan Bridge to Oliver Street. Yes, there’s an Oliver Street in Chinatown so, that’s exactly what we did. Then, we had a very non-thanksgiving lunch of oxtail soup with noodles. Yum!!!!! I was thankful for that yummy, fatty oxtail. Last Thanksgiving I couldn’t eat. That will not be the case this year. I am thankful for that.
And finally, thank you to all of you who read and comment on my blog. I’m so thankful to have people who support me through this experience. I’m also so lucky to be part of a community of strong, smart, powerful women who have been through or are going through cancer treatment and share their experiences with me on their own blogs or through comments.