It is hard to start a new year in the middle of cancer treatment. That was the situation for me, and I recall grasping at anything positive I could find in the coming of a new year.
I seem to always turn to humor when nothing else works, and I can remember thinking that after one more treatment, my hair would begin growing back in and, from everything I had heard, it would come back thicker.
Well, it did. But then it gradually fell out and my fine, thin hair was back.
I was grateful that my teaching job wanted me back, even though they were aware that my energy level was really low. Returning, of course, would necessitate a new wig that looked a little more like me.
So far, I had two things to be grateful for: a job where I’m appreciated and some new hair.
I was also grateful that my child was young enough that she wouldn’t remember my cancer ordeal. She would just touch where my breast used to be and say, “Boo boo.” Oh yeah, it was a boo boo all right. I ultimately decided to be reconstructed because as her own body developed, I wanted her to see a woman who looked like all other women. I wanted two breasts for her to see before she could absorb the reality of what cancer took.
The other things I was grateful for included the friends who brought us good food for the duration of my treatment. The changes in my taste buds and sense of smell had left me with a very narrow menu of appealing food. But my husband and teenage stepson still liked food, so having friends provide eight weeks of meals really helped. I kept thinking I could plead some kind of ongoing issue to keep the meals coming, but decided that was not the way to go.
I would love to add to this list that I lost 20 pounds from being so sick during chemo (I was diagnosed before they used the effective antiemetics and barfed my brains out). I was one of the lucky ones in that I didn’t gain weight during chemo, which studies came to show was the probable outcome for women who underwent adjuvant treatment.
I think I was the most grateful for the researches who spent their days in dark labs looking through microscopes to find the drugs that would kill the cancer that threatened my life.
I was alive and I still am. So, that year and this year, I am grateful to be alive. I am also grateful for all the life lessons I learned with the diagnosis. It changed who I was as a woman and a mother and a friend and a daughter.