The Thanksgiving Holiday After a Breast Cancer Diagnosis

11/18/2017 08:42 pm ET

Thanksgiving, without a doubt, is my favorite holiday of the year. It gives me a whole day to think about all that has been a part of my life for the previous year and to focus on the gratitude inside of me for whatever has been given to me. I understand that most people think that perhaps the year that I was first diagnosed with breast cancer would have been different but such was not the case. I was grateful that the cancer had been discovered and successfully removed with a lumpectomy and that my follow-up treatment was about to commence. I was grateful that I had medical insurance that resulted in my having only a small deductible that had to be paid out of my pocket. I was grateful for the medication coverage that I had that resulted in minimal expenses for me personally. And most of all, I was so grateful for the support of someone who loved me and stood by my side through this journey.

Then the landscape changed entirely by the next Thanksgiving. Breast cancer was discovered for a second time and this time the recommendation was a double mastectomy and reconstruction. My treatment this time was not completed by Thanksgiving but I was so grateful that the cancer had been discovered and that a whole medical team was working with me to give me the best treatment and chances for a complete recovery. I was alive and here to share another holiday season with my husband in the same way that we had celebrated every other year in the past and nothing was going to get in the way of my enjoyment as I was doing everything that I could to ensure many more such celebrations to come.

Now I am about to celebrate my eleveneth Thanksgiving since that second diagnosis and I am so grateful that no additional cancer has been discovered. I am grateful for every single day of this last year when I have been able to get up and enjoy and appreciate a new day. And while that doesn’t mean that I don’t ever experience pain or see the scars or just face life without a second thought about that part of my past, those things are of no importance. No matter the situation, I am alive.

Perhaps you are thinking that I am this grateful because I don’t have advanced breast cancer but that thinking really doesn’t resonate with me. If that was how I thought, I would never be grateful for anything since I got breast cancer in the first place. And then I would definitely never be grateful again because I had breast cancer a second time. And what a disservice this would be to every woman who has advanced breast cancer and is fighting for every single day that she can live and is grateful for being able to do so. And what about every other person who is dealing with any other incurable disease?

I don’t think anyone who is diagnosed with breast cancer is grateful for it but just like anything else in life, what we choose to do with the challenges that we face makes the difference. We can choose to learn from them and deal with them in the best way we can. We can choose to be grateful for each day that we are given and have the opportunity to make a fresh start with our lives. We can do our best to make this day a time when we learn something new and when we make some positive difference. And when Thanksgiving Day arrives, we can choose to be thankful for all of the opportunities that have been given during the past year to live a life that has meaning and to celebrate all that we have done with grace and dignity and love. Now, to me, that is definitely worth having a separate day of celebration.

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