Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

Once again, we come to Thanksgiving Day, the day in our country when we try to take a little time to think about the things we are grateful for. Sometimes that's hard to do, for lots of reasons, but I like to think that all of us have at least one thing, maybe even a small thing, to be thankful for.

It's easy for Thanksgiving Day to be about something other than giving thanks. If you are not from the U.S., you may not know all of the traditions. There is often a lot of food -- good food, probably too much food, for some of us. There is football. There are jokes about relatives, and avoiding sensitive topics of conversation. There is a lot of good stuff to be thankful for, and sometimes we forget to be thankful for things.

I have been trying to give some thought to what I should be thankful for. I've been so busy lately that having an annual Thanksgiving blog post is a nice way to make sure I take some time to think about this. I'm a lucky man, which might be a funny thing for someone with incurable cancer to say. But it's true. I have a lot to be grateful about.

To be honest, I couldn't remember what I wrote about last year. I wasn't sure if I even got around to writing. So I looked back, and sure enough, I had written a Thanksgiving post. It was about my family, which I was truly grateful for -- and still am. I think I managed to thank everyone in my family, near and far. But there was a very big hole in that list.


Earlier this month, I saw that there was an event nearby called "Dear World." For the event, people throughout the day are asked to write something on their skin -- their arms, chest, face, wherever -- something that sums up a message they want to send to the world. Then they are photographed against a a black background. Later that night, there is an assembly where all of the photos are shown on a screen, and people realize that there is a lot that makes them alike, despite their differences.

Unfortunately, I was not able to make it to the event. But it made me think a lot about what I would write on my skin, what kind of message I would want to share with the world. I have a lot of skin, so I could probably write a full 750 word blog post if I really wanted to. But I decided I would keep it simple, up one arm and across the other, in thick black marker:

See the Humor.

I think one of the things that has gotten me through cancer has been my ability to see the humor in bad things. It doesn't mean I ignore them or put them off -- you can't just pretend a cancer diagnosis doesn't exist, at least not for very long. But what you can do is not let it overwhelm you. I wrote, very early on, that I refused to let cancer take away my sense of humor, and making fun of cancer was my way of spitting in its eye and taking away its power.

I think I got that way of looking at the world from  my mom.


I've written about my mom here before, but I'm pretty sure I've never revealed that she died about a year and a half ago. She, too, had cancer, which I know I did reveal. (It was ovarian, because I know you'll want to know. Cancer patients are nosy that way.)  We used to laugh about cancer together, which is one thing I would have preferred that we did not share.

I remember a few days after I was diagnosed, my parents came to visit. We had asked them to come for the weekend, mostly so they could keep an eye on the kids, We had told the kids about my diagnosis on Friday afternoon, and we thought mom and dad might pick up on their anxieties that they wouldn't want to share with us. Mom and dad were in the basement with the kids, so I set the table for dinner. Mom came up a few minutes before dinner was ready, and saw that I had already set the table. "Oh," she said, "I was going to help with that." I told her, "Yeah, the work is done. Nice. Make the guy with cancer do all the f--ing work." She laughed, and then stopped herself. "I can't believe we're laughing at cancer." I made her promise she wouldn't stop.

And she didn't. A few years later, we were at a baseball game, in line to buy ice cream. She was dealing with her own diagnosis. I told her she should tell the ice cream man she had cancer, and maybe she'd get free sprinkles. She laughed and said she could never do that. But when he was dishing up her ice cream, she said very softly, "I have cancer." I don't know if the young man didn't hear her, or didn't know quite how to respond, but she didn't get free sprinkles. She wasn't happy. But we had fun.

I've told those stories before, and I have lots more, but those are two of my favorites.


So I got that perspective on the world from her.

Even people without cancer can have troubles.

The world can be a pretty absurd place. I get reminders of that every day.

A reasonable response would be to curl up in a ball and just not deal with any of it.

A better response, to me, is to see the humor in it all and deal with what comes.

That's what I do. I get it from my mom.

And that's what I'm thankful for this year.


Virginia Miller said...

Lovely stories, Bob! And Happy Thanksgiving to you too!!!

Anonymous said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, Bob. My wife was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma, at the age of 42, last November. I will always remember last Thanksgiving because she had just finished her first round of B-R on Thanksgiving Day, and she didn't have the energy to join us for Thanksgiving dinner. It was a difficult time for both me and the children. As a family, we fought together, and I am happy to report that she achieved remission after 6 hard fought rounds of treatment. We are now in maintenance therapy and doing well.

I am thankful for many things on this wonderful holiday. I am thankful for your blog. I came across this blog in my darkest days of despair, and you have been instrumental in showing me the light. I am grateful for family, friends, and this great nation that we call home. Of all these things, I am most grateful that my wife will be joining us for Thanksgiving dinner this year.

Thanks again for your blog. It has become a part of my daily life.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Barbara Patch said...

I feel the same way about your blog. Thank you.

Fali said...

Bob thank you for your blog. I read it everyday. Happy thanksgiving.

Lymphomaniac said...

Thank you all for your kind word. I'm certainly thankful for all of you who read and comment.
Kevin, I'm happy to hear that your wife is doing well. I hope the maintenance keeps that remission going for a good long time. Keep us updated.