It is that time of year again. The holidays. For some of us, they want to make us scream and run away, hide under a table somewhere and never come out. For others, it is a time to take a break from all the hustle and bustle of the year and make time for our family and friends. Personally, I have always loved the holidays, and Thanksgiving has to be my favorite. Not because of the turkey or the stuffing (oh how I love my stuffing!), the biscuits or the pumpkin pie. Sure, the food is good and I would never turn down a good meal but that is not the reason I love Thanksgiving. I love it because I get to spend the entire day with the people I love the most in this world. My family. And this year is an especially happy one for all of us because about two and half months ago, our world was turned upside down when my sister was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 35.
My mother has always dreaded Thanksgiving. To her, it means rushing around, crowded food stores, crowded streets. It just feels like there is more to do around the holidays and her brain sometimes feels like it is on overload. This year, however, she is looking forward to it, for the first time in many years. Why? Because my sister is better. Because my sister is here. We all take our health and other’s health for granted I think….that is, until something goes wrong. And for my sister, something went wrong. Her symptoms started in the 3rd trimester of her pregnancy with my niece who just turned a year old the beginning of November. She finally went to her GI doctor this past April thinking it was post-pregnancy related, and he suggested that she might be lactose intolerant so she started cutting foods out of her diet, as she was sure that they were the reason she was not feeling well. Unfortunately, the symptoms got worse, not better. It wasn’t until this past September when she finally said to her doctor, “Something is wrong. I don’t think it is the food I am eating. I want a colonoscopy.” Her doctor agreed and set up the appointment. He wasn’t at all prepared for the results. When it was over, her doctor took her into his office, along with my mother who had driven her to the appointment. “You have colon cancer,” her told her, looking as shocked as she did. The next day, she went for her CAT scan to see if the cancer had spread. It was the longest day of her life and my mother’s life. That afternoon, when the doctor called, my mother sat next to me on my sister’s couch, sobbing and sobbing during the call and after the call, when my sister informed us that it had not spread. My sister remained calm and collected, tearing up a little but trying to hold it all together as my mother was the one falling a part and needed to be consoled.
Two weeks later, the beginning of October, she had the operation to remove the tumor. When I saw her in the hospital afterward, she looked tired but alert and was walking and moving as well as she could. She was not allowed to pick up my niece for two weeks nor could she drive my nephew to school. We all pitched in, watching the children, helping my brother-in-law as needed, cooking, cleaning. My mother was at her house 24/7. She took my nephew to school, picked him up from school, watched my niece while my sister slept and cried…a lot. My sister, on the other hand, never cried. Was she upset? Of course. Was she angry, scared, unsure? Of course. But she did not want to be pitied. In the beginning, she did not want people to know that she had cancer. She was uncomfortable with people knowing other than her family and close, close friends. Now that she is doing better and will start chemotherapy in a week, she is more comfortable telling people. Her surgery was successful. She does not have the rare syndrome they thought she might have that would make her susceptible to other cancers. Each day, she looks better and better. Each day, she has more and more energy. She is looking forward to Thanksgiving and to Christmas. She told me the other day that her Christmas shopping is already done. “I got all of my shopping done immediately after I was diagnosed,” she said. “I had no idea what was going to happen and I wanted them (my niece and nephew) to at least have Christmas.”
The other day on my Facebook page, I asked what are you most thankful for in your life? Someone replied “Family and good health.” I could not agree more. Each and every day, I am thankful for my incredible family (husband, mother, father, brother, sister, niece and nephew and brother-in-law). I am thankful for my health. I am thankful that my beautiful sister is here with us, healthy and getting better and stronger each day. There are many people who suffer from various illnesses and diseases each and every day, men, women, and unfortunately, children. Never take your life for granted. Never feel that your life is not worth something because it is. How did my sister even get colon cancer? She doesn’t smoke. She doesn’t drink. She exercises, watches what she eats and enjoys her life to the fullest. She is not 50 years old. She is 35 with two small children who are as healthy and happy as they can be. It saddens me to see people continue to smoke, drink heavily, eat poorly and live life dangerously as if nothing could ever happen to them. My sister did none of this and yet she got cancer. She did not ask for it. Her doctor’s bills are high. Her chemo will last for six months they say. And yet, she takes it all in stride. Because she knows that she is getting better. Because she is strong. Because she trusts her doctors. Because she knows herself and because she has her family to support her and be there for her. And because my sister lives every day to the fullest and never takes her life for granted. Live each day of your life to the fullest. Be thankful for the little things in life. Be thankful for being alive.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
“Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns;I am thankful
that thorns have roses.” Alphonse Karr
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