Happy Thanksgiving to all. I hope you’ve enjoyed your turkey and stuffing, your cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes, and your pumpkin pie, if you are indeed celebrating this weekend. And I hope you have lots to be thankful for.
I know I do. I’m alive, for one. My country provides, at no cost, everything I could possibly need to stay alive despite my precarious health status. There’s a roof over my head and food on my table. I have a loving family that has supported me through many a health challenge. I have my freedom, and I feel safe walking down the street. I am very, very lucky.
Some people say they are grateful for their cancer because it changed their lives for the better. They may be living in the moment more, doing what they want to do rather than what is expected of them (or what they’ve expected of themselves). They say that life has more meaning to them now, and that they are motivated to live each day as if it were their last.
I am not those people. In fact, I think people who make such outrageous claims are off their rockers. I do not relish my cancer or feel it has transformed my life for the better. Cancer has changed the course of my life in ways I will always have trouble accepting. It’s cut my career short and challenged my feelings of health safety and security. It’s made me financially dependent on J. and the government, it’s imposed restrictions I never anticipated, and it’s exhausted me too much to live each day like it’s my last.
Still, having cancer is not all bad. Not working has freed me up to explore other ventures and to relate to people in a different way than I used to. I realize there are ways I can give even though they are different than before. I can review my life both before and after my cancer diagnosis, and feel some pride for my accomplishments. I’m not speaking of anything grand here. Maybe I’ve done good work with the odd client, or rescued an abandoned dog, or made a random stranger laugh. Those little things matter too, don’t they? They do to me.
With cancer comes gratitude, just not gratitude for the cancer itself. I am blessed to be surrounded by love and support. This disease has allowed me to take risks I might not have otherwise taken in my daily life and in my relationships. I feel an urgency to be honest and present brought on by my potential death sentence. I don’t want anything to be left unsaid.
My list may not seem like much–it certainly doesn’t compare to your bucket list–but for me it’s huge.
There’s one final exception to my gratitude, though: I will never be grateful for snow in October, however fleeting it might be. Do you think we Canadians live in igloos? You’re right. I told you I was grateful for the roof over my head; I just never acknowledged the roof was made of snow. Consider it an error of omission.