As I thought about what I wanted to write this week, my mind kept going back to the fact that in a few days, another Thanksgiving will be upon us. The holiday means different things to different people, especially as we grow up and become adults. For some, Thanksgiving means planning a day to spend with family or friends and either travelling to them or entertaining them in our homes. For some, Thanksgiving means scouring the ads and planning one’s Black Friday strategy. For some, however, it means facing the first major holiday without a loved one. Most of us have been there and many probably agree that the thought of having that empty seat at the Thanksgiving table casts a sad pall over the thought of not only the Thanksgiving celebration, but of the coming weeks as we head towards other holidays.
In the past few months, we have lost several women who were regular posters on bcmets.org. We miss them, not only because they are no longer a part of our group, but because they represent what lies ahead for us. One day, the “sad news” will be about our own passing, posted by a grieving loved one or another poster who knew us or came across our obituary. Although it is morbidity that might be unimaginable to some – for women and men with metastatic breast cancer, it is reality.
This will be my third Thanksgiving and holiday season since my own mets diagnosis (20 years following my stage 1 diagnosis). I’ve now had more than 2 years to think about what I could possibly give thanks for. To be honest, my first Thanksgiving following my diagnosis in 2009 was filled with sadness and uncertainty. I looked around the room at the big family gathering and pictured future gatherings without me. The fact that my ex mother-in-law, who I adored, had died from lung cancer earlier in the year didn’t help. In 2010, I was invited to my daughter’s boyfriend’s parents’ home. Since I hardly knew them, most of the day was filled with small talk and honestly, with the exception of my daughter, not having to be surrounded by family actually helped me because I didn’t have to spend the day trying to show how good I was doing to relatives who saw me once or twice a year and expected me to be sick because I have advanced cancer. I still wasn’t ready to “give thanks,” though. As we headed to this year’s holidays, I decided that I was ready to give thanks, because, in reality, I do have many things to be thankful for.
Of course, I am thankful that my cancer hasn’t spread. It’s still in my back and has made no move. (Passing the 2-year mark in October was huge for me!) Once again, I will be spending Thanksgiving with the family who are now my daughter’s future in-laws, as she and her wonderful fiancé will be marrying in June, 2012 – yet another thing to be thankful for. I am thankful for those who have passed, as they left me a very powerful message about facing metastatic breast cancer with dignity and grace – never giving in to the part of cancer that can so easily strip our soul and spirit. Most of all, however, I am thankful for my family, friends, co-workers and medical team. Without their continued support, I could not walk my walk. They lift me in the moments I need them and are always willing to laugh with me on the good days and cry with me on the bad. I am incredibly lucky to have them in my life and although it’s taken me more than two years, I can finally say I give thanks for my wonderful life and can once again wish others a “Happy Thanksgiving.”
May God Bless you on this Thanksgiving, and always – on the good days and the bad!
Don’t Stop Believing!