Thanksgiving has never been a favorite holiday of mine. For one thing, I don't like turkey. And for another thing, when I was growing up, holidays meant spending time with assorted relatives; and let's be honest-- not all of us like or get along with our relatives. I was no exception to that rule.
But this year, while I still don't like turkey and while I don't have any social obligations (no relatives to see, no parties to attend... just a nice, quiet day at home with my husband), I do have a different attitude about Thanksgiving.
As many of you know, the day after Thanksgiving last year, I received the phone call nobody wants to get-- the one where the doctor told me my tests had come back and yes, I did have cancer. Truth be told, I wasn't entirely surprised: as I've mentioned before, nearly every female relative on my mother's side of the family contracted and later died from cancer. But knowing you might get it one day versus being told for sure that you have it are two entirely different things. And suddenly, there I was, getting the diagnosis I had long expected and sometimes dreaded.
The good news was that I had one of the most treatable kinds of cancer. The better news was my doctors believed they caught it early. And the best news was that I live near several internationally known hospitals that specialize in the treatment of various kinds of cancer. In mid-December of last year, I had surgery. I am told it went well-- the tumor was removed, and my oncologist didn't even leave a scar. (And once again showing how things have changed since when I was growing up, the oncologist, as well as nearly everyone else on the team that provided my care that day, was female.)
After a course of radiation that lasted over several weeks, I went right back to work. Although I didn't entirely have my energy back (I was told the
recovery process would be gradual, and it could take months), working kept my mind occupied. In fact, all my life, whenever I've been worried about something, or whenever I just didn't feel healthy, I've always preferred to keep busy. So, I taught my classes, wrote a number of essays, went to a conference and gave a talk, and generally tried to carry on with my life as though nothing had changed.
But in reality, a lot had changed. I am now about to complete a year as a cancer survivor. And although I put on a brave front about it all, sometimes I'm still afraid: What if it comes back? I know that the doctors believe they found it in time, but it's still very disconcerting to know that cancer is now a part of my story. I understand that there are no guarantees in life: we live as long as we live, and not one minute longer. But as I said, there's a big difference between knowing that something might happen, and knowing it did happen.
So, on this Thanksgiving, I guess you can say I have a different way of looking at the holiday: this year, I am profoundly grateful to be alive. I especially want to thank those who were so supportive during this time last year. My husband went above and beyond in so many ways, as did several of my friends; but a special hat tip also goes out to the many Rush fans who reached out to me, proving once again that Rush fans are the best.
Above all, I am all too aware that this story could have turned out very differently-- my grandmother died at age 44, of the same kind of cancer that I just had. Her prognosis was so bad because of the times she lived in; mine is far more positive because of advances in modern medicine. And so, even though at times I'm still in pain and at times I'm still worried about the future, most of the time I am just grateful. I have a lot to be thankful for. And I know that.