Can We Be Thankful in the Midst of Cancer?

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Here's what you can be thankful for...

image of Sue McCarthy

Two weeks ago, most Americans celebrated Thanksgiving Day with family and/or friends. Among those who participated in holiday gatherings were individuals who had spent part or all of the prior year somehow involved in a cancer journey. Could those patients, caregivers and loved ones feel thankful on Thanksgiving and the upcoming holidays?

I hope so!

I write I hope so, because, sadly, some folks’ lives have been truly arduous. Health crises, family issues and employment struggles have burdened them regularly. A man or woman whose life experiences have only been problematic, may have nothing to be thankful for.

However, most of us have encountered some good, some bad and many more neutral events in our lives.

I’m sure someone is reading this and questioning me.“ Yeah, right. What could I be thankful for?”

Here are a few possibilities.

  • …the smile on the face of the reception in the cancer treatment center.
  • … that your doctor treats you with respect.
  • …your kind retired neighbor who takes you to chemo appointment after appointment.
  • …scientists who work tirelessly to develop new treatments.
  • …to live in a city with good medical care.
  • …to have a safe home where you feel grounded.

I’ve had cancer three times: first ductal carcinoma in situ- beginning stage breast cancer, then three years later a meningioma tumor in the lining of the brain and finally stage 3B non-small cell lung cancer. This past June, I reached the five-year mark, and was designated, Cured of lung cancer.

And even as I write, the possibility of being diagnosed with my fourth cancer comes to mind. Of course, it could happen, but that doesn’t stop me from counting my blessings.

After my bout with breast cancer, I started a small business, which is now over twenty-five years old.

I have overcome so many of the childhood family issues that had burdened me for a good deal of my life, thanks to a large extent, to the confidence I have gained through coping with stage 3B lung cancer. My sister and I have reconciled, which is something I never anticipated occurring.

I’ve become close friends with a fellow member of my church’s cancer support group. D is one of three people in my life who are in the midst of cancer treatment now. She celebrates each day of life, hugely thankful. In addition to her stage 4 colon cancer, she has undergone several significantly painful experiences in her life unrelated to her health. D has become a role model of faith to me.

The other two individuals are cousins of mine, who I’ve been able to support in their recent cancer journeys. Getting to know them has meant so much to me. In connection with the problems in my family, I had virtually no relationships with cousins and now, I do! Again, to a large extent, because of cancer.

At many Thanksgiving Day dinner tables, hosts and hostesses voiced their thanks for health, wealth and happiness and this will continue throughout the holidays.

Few would question whether health, wealth and happiness are valuable assets. Hardly anyone would argue a good life would be very difficult without any of them.

Consulting Google on my iPhone, I found the following definition of health. “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmary.”

Simply the absence of cancer doesn’t result in contentment and showing appreciation.

By giving thanks, we open ourselves to feel more positivity and hope. Why not whisper a thank you for something good in your life and let the joy flow in this holiday season.

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