Thanksgiving: Being Thankful Despite Cancer


Showing gratitude in spite of the changes that cancer brings.

The holidays have always been something that mattered in my family. When my sister was diagnosed, a first thought in our minds was would she even make it to the holidays? As the years wore on and things were not going well, it was a constant worry about how best to keep normalcy when life was anything but normal.

The kitchen has always been the heart of our homes. Thanksgiving is that one day a year that we are a Norman Rockwell picture perfect family. We sit together and have the most normal meal of all, enjoy football and watch the Macy’s parade after our bird, always affectionately named Thomas, goes into the oven.

Even having tackled several holiday seasons with cancer, we do not even remotely have all the answers. Upon diagnosis, we knew our lives would be different. I do not think any of us knew just how life-changing cancer was going to be. All the little things that you do this time of year that can’t be done. Or at the very least, they have a need to be altered. In the scheme of things, it is often a mild inconvenience, but when it comes to traditions, it is a bitter pill to swallow.

The first year, it was hard to plan for anything because she was in and out of the hospital so much that we did not know where she would be. The second year she had pneumonia and had been hospitalized on Nov. 11. It was a battle against time, but as it grew nearer, it became a reality that she would not be home. It was at this time that a plan was formulated to cook and prepare dinner before taking it to the hospital. Because no matter what, it was most important to spend Thanksgiving together as a family.

Last Thanksgiving was the most memorable. We had spent the better part of that year going back and forth from countless doctors in an effort to prep her for a bone marrow transplant. The day before Thanksgiving, they set a consult, and while I had known it would finally be a yes, my sister did not. To be in that office and watch as the realization of a second chance set in was beyond the best Thanksgiving gift that I could have asked for.

As we prepare for this Thanksgiving, it is hard to not reflect on the years that passed and how different Thanksgiving has become since cancer entered our lives. I also think about all the reasons it makes it more special. Yearly, we state how grateful we are for the blessings and good things that are in our lives and for how lucky we are to celebrate the season and to share the day with those whom we love and cherish.

Thanksgiving has always been a time a time for family. Having had cancer in our lives and faced so much trial and tribulations in these last five years for many various reasons, I am constantly reminded that amongst all of the bad, there is always good. Despite it all, I have an incredible amount of things to be thankful for this year.

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