Chapter 27: The war on cancer, a reunion, and gratitude

Don has been back to work for two weeks now and continues to feel good. Hooray! I am amazed at how quickly we have fallen back into the old routines of working (sometimes late) and juggling family tasks (taking this kid there, that kid over there, did you pick up some bread? Etc.). It’s almost as if it’s been a “normal” summer.

As I’m sure you’ve heard, Senator John McCain has been diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer, but did manage to fly to DC this week for a few important votes. With all of this came more talk of the war on cancer and all of those battle-like terms. Fighter. Win the war. Victory. Defeat. These are fine – most of us respond well to the urge to fight this diagnosis – but what if there is no clear victory or no clear defeat? What if someone must deal with this for years? Are they defeated? Are they fighting the entire time? That sounds exhausting to me. What if someone fights this battle for a decade or more, but then dies, are they a loser/failure? In my view, they are still victorious — a survivor — if they continued to live a meaningful life, even with a cancer diagnosis.

Which brings me to state of mind. For us, seizing the positive is the obvious thing to do. As I’ve told many when discussing Don’s situation, “yes, it’s a bummer, but it could be a thousand times worse.” If this is something Don (and our family) will have to manage and deal with for years (might be easy, might be hard, who knows exactly? We’ll see.) we don’t see how being constantly down and out about it does us any good. So it’s there. We are handling it in a proactive manner. We are doing everything we can. Don is feeling good. What else is there? We can live in fear of the What Ifs. Or we can live in awareness of the What We Have Today (feeling good; healthy family; food, clothes and roof over our heads; meaningful work).

A notable moment this week was my 30th high school reunion. Wow, what a time? I’m so glad I went and was able to connect with some really great people. One of my classmates is an oncologist and as I chatted briefly with him about our spring (because how many people really understand what he does every day?) he asked the right questions and then went on to describe the anxiety and stress of living from scan to scan. While I’m sure there is an element of truth to this, this is not really what I wanted to hear. We have committed to seizing the positive and plan to make the most out of every day, month, year we have on this journey. I suspect this was his way of expressing sympathy, but the delivery was poor. I scooted on to the next classmate quickly!

And finally, a few nights ago was the Gratitude Candle moment. I joined my work colleagues and friends for a gathering to say goodbye to a few who are moving on, and to welcome a few new colleagues. After enjoying a casual dinner we gathered to pass around the gratitude candle. As the candle comes to you, you share something you are grateful for. Anne started with the candle – she is one of our core members – adult resident with intellectual/developmental disabilities. She shared she was grateful for her time with our friends who are leaving and was so proud of them. And then the tears started flowing, but she said they were happy tears! Next was Jeff, another core member, and he commented on how grateful he is for the friendships he has at the farm. Core Members Jake and Molly also shared similar thoughts on their friendships and how they will miss their friends. At this point there were lots of tears from the core members and all of us. A few of the sentiments shared included gratitude for: new opportunities, old and new friends, a place where one can stretch and grow, the gift of memories, and the people in this room. Like any organization, we have our challenging moments. But the feeling of love and respect from each person that night is something I won’t forget for a long while.

I hope you will soon find a moment with your gratitude candle.

Click here to learn more about my work at Peacehaven Community Farm.

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One thought on “Chapter 27: The war on cancer, a reunion, and gratitude

  1. Hey Steph, so glad Don is feeling good & you made it to your 30th reunion! You are also very lucky that you have a place to work that means so much! Keep focusing on the good stuff!

    After 6 years of cancer, my mom is doing great (better than many her age without cancer) so she is no doubt a survivor!

    Liked by 1 person

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