I have often said that my cancer diagnosis forever changed me. The call from my doctor that began with the words “I don’t know how to tell you this” served as a demarcation between life as I knew it and the dizzying array of surgeries and life changes that followed.
But it would be incorrect to assume that all of those changes were negative. My new normal came with many unwelcome changes to my life, but it is also imbued with a gratitude that fuels every day.
Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on that gratitude. When a day of festivity includes fried turkey (with delectable crispy skin) and desserts aplenty, it is easy to lose sight of the deeper meaning behind the holiday. To a foodie like me, the day of socially sanctioned gluttony is something I look forward to all year, but I also value the holiday’s greater significance. To me, even if we make the giving of thanks an official part of our Thanksgiving feast, it will not capture how grateful I am. Not just on this day, but every day.
I am so grateful to still be here. That is really what it boils down to and what will sometimes stop me in my tracks on a beautiful fall day or when I am surrounded by my family, knowing that other people who have faced the Big C were not as fortunate. Ovarian cancer is known as the silent killer, and the statistics are grim. I have beat the odds not once but twice. It is not something I take lightly.
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But as I get older, perhaps because I faced my own mortality at an age when it is not on most people’s radar, I find myself appreciating other things, too. I value time with my parents and my in-laws, knowing they are getting older, and I feel so lucky that my kids have had all four grandparents in their lives. Our extended families are not local and we do not see them nearly as often as I would like, but I am grateful for modern technology that allows us to be connected even when we are not physically together.
And as my kids get older, forging their own lives and friendships apart from us, I relish the times we manage to get all of us under one roof together. With two of my three kids in college, time together is precious. I know it won’t be long before we, too, are living apart, and that they will have their own families and extended families further complicating the scheduling of our family gatherings. But their separate lives are an indication of their success, as they navigate careers and relationships that we want them to have, and I appreciate how lucky I am to have children who are able to leave home and live independently.
I am so grateful to still be here.
Katya Lezin, cancer survivor
And through all of these life changes, I find myself thankful for David, my husband of almost 25 years. It is much easier to navigate the blows life can deliver with someone by your side who has your back and supports you. But it is equally important to have someone in your life with whom you can share the positives and silver linings that seem to abound in your own life. It is much easier to face the empty nest that is part of our imminent future when that same transition also represents a new chapter with someone I love.
Rest assured I am not a walking Hallmark card, filled with gratitude every moment of every day. Some things cannot be sugarcoated or spun into a positive. The guy who cut me off on Providence Road rankles me, as does the girl who bullied my daughter. There are moments and people who will not be on my list when we share what we are grateful for at the Thanksgiving table. But overall, I am so very grateful for all that is good in my life, and the fact that I am still alive to enjoy all those good things.
Katya Lezin is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.