I’ve heard the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, “Drinksgiving,” is the biggest bar night of the year. Which is funny because I’m at home on the sofa in sweatpants, crocheted blanket over my lap, toying with the idea of turning on a Hallmark movie and calling it a day. It’s 8:20 p.m., y’all. Lincoln and Hyatt are playing in their room, still going strong, and I am D-O-N-E.
When I was in college, and then in those early years after college, I absolutely participated in Drinksgiving, but it wasn’t about alcohol. It was a great opportunity to catch up with old friends who were in town. We’d stay out—often ’til last call—and then the next morning some of us would run in the hilly Thanksgiving Turkey Trot on the University of Richmond campus. We’d take the race after-party to Starbucks, I’d drink a one-pump vanilla latte and chomp on a bagel, and then I’d head home, ready for a day of family and feasting.
Man. Those were the days.
Today, the thought of running a hilly 10K is wonderful, but the reality is pretty recalcitrant. I am just plain out of shape. My post-cancer-treatment recovery lab work reveals anemia and a bunch of lame—despite my cancer-free classification. The thought of staying out until last call with my friends sounds liberating, but could I even do it? Not sure.
Today, Bryce was working and our sitter was off, so I stayed home with the boys. The weather was gorgeous, and we decided to have a little adventure at Maymont. We were there for almost four hours. We ran up hills, climbed on rocks, and found a snail. Sammy Snail.
While I am not a perfect mom by any standard, and believe me—the kids totally wore me out—I recognize what a gift it is to have enough energy to take them to a park solo. Last year at this time, I’m not sure I could have, or would have, done it.
And I’m thankful to be alive, to be able to enjoy the awe-inspiring fall leaves and reminisce about carefree bar nights, to aspire to run another Turkey Trot one day, to beg my children to sit next to each other and smile for just one nice picture.
I haven’t blogged since April, but I’ve been processing so many things about my year of cancer treatment. I’ve been thinking a lot about what recovery looks like, too. I haven’t sat down to write about it because I’ve been too busy living. I’m equal parts satisfied and exhausted, constantly mulling over the words I’d use to describe this journey, but lacking the will to open up my laptop late at night. I’d rather curl up with a good book.
And yet, here we are, at Thanksgiving.
This year, perhaps more than any other year, I have so much to be thankful for. I want to honor the people who helped our family and the God who taught me, and continues to teach me, countless lessons during our trial.
There was the friend who sent me jokes regularly all throughout my months of treatment. Hi Amanda.
The friends who sent me makeup and took me to Sephora for a makeover so I could maintain my vanity (sigh) and walk around like I wasn’t sick. For better or for worse, I was 0% interested in being the center of attention or receiving concerned looks from people. So I was like, bring on the eyeliner, people.
Our church, who rallied immediately to pray for healing, and who encouraged us along the way. Who backfilled my nursery coordinator duties for a year so I could avoid germs. Who funded months of housecleaning for us, on an every-other-week schedule. You guys gave us community and pointed us to Jesus, so our suffering was not in vain. Thank you for reminding us of the Truth, for helping us have clarity about our situation.
There were my co-workers at Unboxed who accommodated my chemotherapy schedule, chemotherapy-induced fatigue, ‘roid rage, and time out of office for surgery. Who consistently made me laugh until I cried, left presents for Lincoln and Hyatt on my desk, connected with our church to set up a meal calendar for us, reminded me of my “Cancer Superpower,” took free family photos, and contributed toward our housecleaning services. You guys treated me with dignity and respect, and you allowed me to get outside of myself and give back. I’ll never forget the kindness you showed.
There were the friends who had fought cancer themselves, who texted me, encouraged me, and helped me know what to expect. I wish we’d connected under different terms, but I’m so thankful for you.
The friends and family who helped me buy cool scarves and a wig that strangers thought was my real hair. The friend who twinned with me.
There was our busy box army, whose generosity motivated us to clean out our closet, as we needed enough space to store all the boxes. (Busy boxes are filled with toys, books, stickers, and craft supplies to surprise and delight kiddos and keep them—you got it—busy.)
Our meal train. Wow. Having meals provided to us regularly was an unquantifiable blessing that gave us back so much time and energy. I honestly can’t imagine what we would have done without that help. No joke, I think we received between 70 and 100 meals. It might have been more. Wow.
There were the friends and family members who braved scary chemotherapy appointments with me, or went to lunch with me when my white blood cell counts were too low to receive treatment. (I know systemic therapy can do wonders, and the nurses are wonderful, but I still associate big needles, IV bags, and toxic medical concoctions with the word creepy. Maybe one day I’ll grow up or become less squeamish…not today.)
The friends and family who took our boys on outings, watched them for the day, or came over to our house and provided parenting backup when we were tired or needed to get things done. I was able to go on walks because of you, take super-helpful yoga classes because of you, and all things considered, have a weirdly good year.
My parents, my in-laws, and Bryce, who held down the fort and were totally brave even though I know they were completely freaked out. Thank you for the rides, helping with the boys, listening to me, checking in, and for keeping things positive for Lincoln and Hyatt.
My sister, who rollerskated countless miles to raise money and awareness for the cause, and who hung tough and eventually moved back to Richmond from Cali to spend time with us.
My aunt the pathologist, who ran down answers to my questions and reviewed my reports. And all of my other aunts, uncles, and cousins who brought meals or sent blankets, notes, and texts. Who wore pink and walked in the Susan G. Komen event in May.
The friends who taught me about plant-based nutrition and even helped me grocery-shop at Kroger.
The medically-trained friends (hey Jess and Christy) who interpreted lab results for me, sent me journal articles to read, and helped me navigate the healthcare system. I wish every patient could have one of these friends.
And my doctors, and all of the medical professionals I met over the last year, who were such characters and said so many quotable quotes. I’ve thankful to have met you, and I’m thankful for the care you took in your communication with me, and I appreciate all the time you spent with me explaining all the things.
I could go on and on, and I will probably come back to this post and add to it, but the bottom line is this: all of the help mattered. We were strengthened by the prayers and gifts of time, humor, thoughtfulness, and resources. The comedy DVDs. The bone broth. The music recs. The flowers. The cards. All of it.
I had a chance to share some of our story with a group of people at our church a few weekends ago. I hope to have the energy to write more over the next few weeks and months, but in case I neglect this blog again for a little while, here are some of the things I’ve been holding on to:
Romans 8:28, which says “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Malachi Chapter 2 likens God to a refiner’s fire, who “purifies the Levites and refines them like gold and silver.” I see evidence of how God has changed my heart and my understanding because of the trial we’ve been in as a family. I ask for help more, and faster. I don’t fear failure or the opinions of others as much. I take more risks.
Matthew 10:29 says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your father’s care.” Trusting God is freeing. We’ve had to make so many hard medical decisions this year. Sometimes I run myself in circles second-guessing myself, wondering if I made the right treatment choices, being consumed by fear. I’m happier when I let go.
Psalm 139:16 says, “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
And Philippians 4:8 says “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
So whether you’re out tonight celebrating Drinksgiving, up late in a kitchen somewhere dicing onions, or sitting alone with a cup of tea, being still, meditating on the year you’ve had and all of its highs and lows, I hope the Lord blesses you in some small way that touches your heart.
See you at the Turkey Trot…