The Art of Giving Thanks

Practicing gratitude is an art. But how do we learn to give thanks for the difficult things, like breast cancer? One survivor shares her experience.

Thanksgiving is the one day of the year we set aside to focus on being grateful. It's a day of celebration where many families gather together to share in their good fortune. But for some, holidays aren't always joyful, especially when severe health issues enter the picture.

I remember the first Thanksgiving after I'd been diagnosed with breast cancer. When the holiday rolled around, I'd just completed my 28th round of radiation. My body was weak and my energy level was extremely low. I didn't feel like participating in the food preparations or any of the family gatherings, but I made myself do as much as I could. I was blessed to have my children pick up some of the slack. They worked hard to take over the cooking and cleaning, allowing me to focus on just visiting with our guests. Although I didn't expend much physical energy that day, I was exhausted after our guests left.

The second Thanksgiving after surgery and treatment, I was happy to have the opportunity to get back in the swing of things. I prepared the holiday meal and invited family and friends to our home. I barely noticed any physical limitations until the day was over and I was in the process of unloading the dishwasher. My tiredness crept up on me slowly and by the time I went to bed, I realized my stamina wasn't what it used to be.

This year, I'm excited about Thanksgiving! I've completed all treatments and I'm feeling great. One of my daughters has stepped up to the plate and has offered to host the meal at her house. I'll be making some side dishes, but other than that, I'll be spending time thinking about all my many blessings.

As I think back over the past three years, I have much for which to be grateful. The active phase of my treatment is over. Life as I once knew it has pretty much returned to normal. But the main thing that has changed is my constant focus on gratitude.

Each day since my diagnosis, I've purposed in my heart to practice the art of giving thanks. I keep a gratitude journal and during the day, I jot down things I appreciate. By choosing to practice the art of gratitude, I find that my outlook as changed. No longer do I dwell on the negative. I'm always looking for something positive in my day.

Learning to be grateful takes time. It is an art that must be practiced. Expressing gratitude should be a simple task, but for some, it's not that easy.

In the midst of trials, it's hard to give thanks. When you don't feel well, you don't want to be thankful. It isn't easy to think about being grateful when your physical body is in pain. Gratitude is a choice.

The Bible says we are to give thanks in ALL things. That means we're to be grateful for both the good and the bad. For those who don't believe the same way I do, this is a monumental challenge. I've learned that even in the midst of hard times, there's always a valuable lesson to be learned.

As I look back over the past few years, I can see how even the most difficult challenges I faced have helped to mold and shape me into the person I've become today. Learning to practice giving thanks wasn't always easy. In fact, sometimes, it was downright impossible. But once I became intentional about choosing to give thanks, it became easier and easier.

I hope this Thanksgiving you'll find the desire to practice the art of giving thanks. Perhaps, as you begin to smell the sweet aroma of delicious foods cooking, your memory will be jogged into remembering one thing for which you can be grateful. Maybe you want to be thankful you made it through surgery. Perhaps you've just completed your chemotherapy or radiation. Whatever the milestone may be, be thankful you've made it through and you're still here to celebrate one more day of life.

Give thanks in all things...powerful words with impactful meaning. For those of us touched by cancer, one more minute, one more day, one more holiday, is more than enough to be celebrating. Won't you join me in learning to practice the art of gratitude? I promise, it will be well worth your time. Just start with one thing. What is one thing you can celebrate today? Take time to think and I'm sure your daily gratitude list will begin to grow and grow and grow.