Wednesday, May 5, 2010

After Cancer, Gratitude

I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude lately, trying to put my finger on what exactly I’m grateful for in the 6 year since I was first diagnosed with caesuras tumors and had my first surgery to remove them. When you have cancer, when you’re being cut open and radiated and who knows what else, it can take a great effort to be thankful for the gift of the one life that we have been blessed with. Believe me, I know.
And sometimes, in the amnesia of sickness, we forget to be grateful. But if we let our cancers consume our spirits in addition to our bodies, then we risk forgetting who we truly are, of contracting a kind of Alzheimer’s of the soul.
Not that I felt grateful each moment of each day. I’m grateful that what ever anger I felt after my diagnosis pasted quickly. I still got frustrated sometimes by the physical challenges I faced in the wake of cancer.
Gratitude is an antidote to the dark voice of illness that whispers to us, that insists that all we have become is our disease. Living in the shadow of cancer has granted me a kind of high-definition gratitude. I’ve found that when you’re grateful, the world turns from funereal gray to incandescent Technicolor.
There are, of course, the obvious things to be thankful for. The love and care of my family and friends; the concern and support of colleagues and community; the skill and insight of the doctors and all the other medical staff who have brought me to this very moment:
The nurses who spooned ice chips into my cotton mouth after surgery; chemotherapy and radiation.
The nurse therapists and aids who blasted Flogging Molly and Jars of Clay for me when I had chemotherapy. The blood technicians who made a steel needle feel like cold silk; the hospital aides who took a couple of minutes to talk to me about movies, books and mortality when I was in so much pain I couldn’t find rest.
These small moments of gratitude are the most poignant to me because they indicate that I’m still paying close attention to the life I’m living, that I didn’t succumbed to numbing obliviousness.
These days I’m grateful for:
The once a month Friday morning breakfasts with my cancer survivor group.
Those nights when I sleep through, and don’t have to get up and do the zombie shuffle to the bathroom.
When just the right song vaults and shimmers from my favorite radio station.
The pollen-encrusted bumblebees patrolling the blue-purple cat mint and bleeding heart that has been with me since my first diagnoses.
An iced raspberry lemonade.
The healing sound of my boys. Drinking from their water bowl.
The latest book in the JD Robb series or a new murder mystery from Mary Higgins Clark.
A chicken salad croissant with sliced deli pickles.
For my visits to the hair salon every six weeks for a restyle.
And gratitude, finally, for the you. Thank you for friendship for just being “normal” so I could feel “normal” too.


  1. Wow, Thressa! What a journey. You're a trooper. You did it with grace and dignity, too! Congratulations!

  2. You're such a strong lady, we love having you in the Primary and all you do for the kids. Thanks for your strength and example!