Top Ten Things to Be Grateful For From The Perspective of a Chronically Ill Person
*Disclaimer: Cancer, even when considered curable, is a chronic disease. I am considered No Evidence of Disease (NED), which is as close to cured as a cancery person will ever be. That being said, I have now had the same cancer twice, which has struck the fear of God (and unfortunate statistical evidence) in me that this isn’t the end of the story. And we all know that the effects of the disease are lifelong, blah blah blah.
*Disclaimer #2: Please know that I know that what lies behind the scenes in people’s lives is vast and deep. I will be commenting on how things make me feel within the general parameters of those who have walked my walk, and those who have not.
In no particular order…
1. Be grateful that you don’t have to compare yourself to those who *seem* healthy and thriving. I know that Instagram reality isn’t reality, but even the fact that people I am friends with are at an ice skating rink in festivewear with people they love is upsetting and jealousy-inducing.
2. Be grateful that you are not the person who sees all the issues around the house (like dishes, laundry, etc.) that you are medically advised not to address and then have to choose whether to watch it pile up or turn into Queen Nag and sweetly encourage others to get things done that you normally would have done.
3. Be grateful that when you choke on your tea, the coughing doesn’t cause spasms that cascade across your barren pelvic cavity. You can just choke like a typical person.
4. Be grateful that you can participate in the planning and execution of the Thanksgiving festivities. You are not tied to your bed despite looking like you are perfectly capable of helping, thus initiating a resentful response that benefits no one.
5. Be grateful that you are allowed to exercise the calories away. Everything I ingest is here to stay until ol’ Father Digestion renders it useless. If you are able to get out there and use your body to its fullest potential, please do it! Don’t waste a perfectly healthy body on inactivity. You can do it! So DO IT!
6. Be grateful that your loved ones don’t have to hide their joy and life wins from you. I have a spidey sense when my people are living their best lives and trying to hide it from me. And you know what? In a lot of instances, I am grateful! See bullet point #1.
7. Be grateful that inactivity hasn’t forced you to take the long view on your life and choices. I don’t want to take stock of my decisions and reflect on my failures; I want to ignore it all like the rest of you! But I have nothing but time to ruminate, and it isn’t always the answer, let me tell you.
8. Be grateful that you still might be able to see the glass half full. One fight I get in with my husband occasionally is that I am too negative. Go ahead and take a moment to let that marinate. He is blessed with a laissez faire outlook on everything. I was cynical to begin with, and now here we are. Would I like to walk through life optimistic that the cold won’t freeze my toes at a wintry football game, or that the stock market tanking isn’t a big deal, or that my cancer won’t come back? Yeah, sure I would. Am I built for that? No Sir/Ma’am. Glass half full? I am not even sure if I have a glass anymore.
9. Be grateful that none of your body parts have turned on you. I have scars for days—body parts that either can’t be used or have been removed. I take medications with wicked side effects. My cyborg level has never been higher, and I am not here for it. I want to have a broken toe and an occasional case of the stomach flu just like you.
10. Be grateful that you aren’t the one in any given group of people that is the unfortunate one. Listen, I like attention. Positive attention. Being that poor unfortunate soul in a group is the worst. You can feel the pity that your existence drums up in the air. The way conversations have to be altered or halted altogether in your presence. It is a no-win game for everyone. You don’t want people to ignore what you have been through; that doesn’t work either. Best case scenario is walking the line between being the group-appointed casualty at the table, and playing along like you haven’t seen hellfire and brimstone.
On this Thanksgiving eve, as I look ahead towards the festivities that include but are not limited to two vegetarian/vegans, a guest with Alzheimer’s who thinks two other deceased family members are coming, and the depresh that is my general existence, I ponder what constitutes enough gratitude.
My friend Gina wrote a whole book on gratitude called, I Want To Thank You, and said this of the word/concept, “Gratitude is strong medicine. It helps us see what’s there instead of pining for what’s missing.” The problem for cancery folk like me is that what is there includes literal and theoretical pain & loss. What is missing is health and perhaps that gadget from Men in Black that erases memories. I know of course that she means to focus on the good of what is there, and in news that will surprise no one, I could be better at that. What I think I can work on is sitting in the sadness of what is there and finding a tranquility within it that neither negates the existence of the trauma nor wastes my time wishing it away.
I think where we net out is peace. Can I find myself at peace with all that has happened to me? And can I extend that peace out to those around me with whom I gather to show thanks? Honestly, definitely not this year cause I have less than 24 hours to gain enlightenment, but can we keep this as a goal for next year? Let’s give it a shot.