Perhaps you are newly diagnosed or in the midst of grueling cancer treatments. I write this to bring you hope and encouragement. It is necessary to give a year to cancer if you need chemo, radiation, and surgery. When I started it seemed like that year would never end. But it does, and it will for you as well. When you are in the middle of the darkness of the cancer tunnel, it is difficult to see even a few hours at a time. But once you get out of that tunnel, life takes on a whole new meaning.
Today is the anniversary of my Mastectomy. Thanksgiving Day was the day I returned home from the hospital. It was the day I was forced to accept the role of “cancer patient” and officially begin my one year of cancer treatment. As I reflect over the past year, one thing comes to mind: I have been deeply and richly blessed. My former pastor, Fr. Ed Schleter, told me he would give me 5 years to recognize the gifts of cancer. Hopefully, I am a fast learner and already clearly see so many of these gifts.
I would be depressed if I focused on what I have lost over the past year: my breast, 14 lymph nodes, my hair, my muscle strength and range of motion, proper functioning of my heart because of an herceptin/chemo heart attack, a few brain functions with onset of chemo brain which are improving, medicine-free living, a life without lymphedema, ongoing side effects of chemotherapy….
It sounds like quite a bit when I write it all down. Even with all of that, I feel good and am overjoyed to be celebrating Thanksgiving this year. But let’s talk about what I have gained and for what I am thankful for this Thanksgiving.
Wisdom and Knowledge – My insurance company paid out close to $200,000 and I paid out over $10,000 so far in co-pays, medicines, and incidentals. I am so grateful for Medical Mutual of Ohio. Being self-employed, I never dreamed I would have such amazing coverage. For this, I thank God every day, and for my agent who always discouraged me when I wanted to change insurance companies. Thank God I listened to his experience!
The wisdom I have gained amounted to so much more than those sums of money could buy, however. There is no price I can put on what I have learned about cancer, about the strength and stamina of cancer patients, the education, care and concern of medical doctors, nurses, and medical staff, and the love and devotion of family and friends. The unbelievable care I received at the University of Michigan Breast Care Clinic as I am their biggest cheerleader. Plus, I learned how tough I am through the gift of God’s grace.
My Will to Live – I never would have guessed that I had such a strong will to live. Had someone asked me before diagnosis, I would have said I probably didn’t care if I lived or died. I was so wrong. Something kicked into gear the day I told my Oncologist I wanted to quit chemo and didn’t want to live. He gave me the gift of compassion and understanding which inspired me to live. From that day on, I never looked back. The strength of wanting to live took over. Never underestimate the gift you give to another with the power of compassion and understanding.
Family and Friends – I was able to receive the amazing gift of the love of my family. Now that is an incredible thing! All of them went above and beyond the call of family obligation! And friends…I received over 350 greeting cards! I didn’t even know I knew that many people. My family and friends stood by me, cooked for me, created recipes for me, helped me clean, took me to treatment, sent me flowers, took me to the grocery store, and brought me groceries. It was my family and closest friends who listened to me even during my horrible, steroid mood swings and angry outbursts, laughed, thought it was funny and didn’t condemn me. Friends helped me exercise, gave me so many gracious and cherished gifts, visited me at my home, planted my flowers, sent me multiple greeting cards to cheer me, wore pink hair and clothing in my honor, donated money in my honor, traveled for miles and miles to see me, and called and called and called to make sure I was okay.
Also, I received the great gift of knowing who my closest friends are, the boundaries of my relationships, and what true friendship really is. So many people never get that opportunity, but I clearly was able to see the clarity of my relationships. Their love and devotion got me through.
The Gift of One Day – I see the gift of a day so differently now. I wake up and thank God I am here. A sense of excitement and eagerness takes over and I think, “What will this wonderful day bring?”
My Blog – How amazing this has been for me. I get many emails from women going through Breast Cancer. I cherish each and every one. Today I heard from a gal who had written me on several occasions while going through Chemo. She had her PET Scan yesterday and she was cancer free! Her Oncologist had given her less than a 10% chance last April. The entire medical team was astonished she is cancer free. She wrote to thank me for my Blog and my encouragement. You cannot come up with a better gift to receive than her email! The tears were flowing down my cheeks as I felt her joy.
I don’t have enough time to write about all of things I am grateful for this Thanksgiving and each day. My heart overflows with gratitude. But to give you an idea how the ordinary brings me much joy, I just finished peeling 10 pounds of potatoes. Before breast cancer, I hated peeling potatoes and let everyone know it. Now, being able to peel 10 pounds of potatoes was the most fabulous thing I’ve ever done.