November – people generally try to focus on gratitude with the month of Thanksgiving. Facebook is typically filled with days of gratitude. Well this year it’s more about politics, but I miss those days. In general, the holidays are hard for people dealing with cancer, and it starts with this focus on gratitude. It’s difficult not to put the “but cancer” tag after every grateful thought. It goes something like this…
I’m so grateful for a clean scan…. BUT I’m still in treatment so it doesn’t really feel that different.
I’m so grateful that I’m in remission…. BUT I am terrified about how long that will last, particularly with ovarian cancer.
I’m grateful for this day, to live in this day…. BUT I am nauseated and so very tired.
I’m grateful for these people in my life…. BUT I feel bad about the burden I’ve placed on them.
I’m grateful for the time with people I love…. BUT I need to go home now because I’m so tired.
I’m grateful to be alive…. BUT how long do I have??
It’s hard. It’s exhausting. And we spend a lot of time talking about our cancer with people we haven’t seen in a while. We smile, we are gracious, we do the best we can to look and feel great, but just know that on the inside, we’re pissed we have this in our lives. We’re tired of being tired. We need to talk about it and we’re tired of talking about it. We’re sad. We’re scared. We can’t help but wonder what the next year will hold for us. We’re jealous we can’t just enjoy the holidays without this “but” in our lives. Those thoughts are always there on some level; at least I think they are for most people who are actively dealing with cancer. But it seems amplified during the holidays – it’s just harder to push down those “but cancer” thoughts during a time where everyone is so festive and happy.
I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, because listen, I really am grateful for this day, these people, this life, the clean scan, and the doctors and medical advances that give me life and hope (SHOUT-OUT to Dr. Benigno and the Ovarian Cancer Institute!!). I wouldn’t be here today without the people around me, all of them. Personally I find myself on the verge of tears a lot (or maybe just “in tears”) during the holidays – it’s all very emotional, not in a bad way, but just overwhelming at times. Much of that is pure gratitude for being alive, knowing that I am beating the odds, being with my family and my friends – the people I love the most. Knowing how fragile life is, how important it is to live in THIS moment, to enjoy THIS moment, to love THIS moment because really none of us know what tomorrow brings. It’s big stuff y’all. And it’s the only way I know to keep moving forward – acknowledge those nagging “but cancer” thoughts, but really, try to live in the moment and be grateful for all the love in my life.
So that is my challenge to you this holiday season. Take in all the love around you. Live in the moment. Love out loud.
Happy Thanksgiving – may you all know love and peace and joy unbounded.