What a difference a year makes. Last Thanksgiving, I was so sick from Fentanyl that I missed my favorite meal of the year. I was limited to being thankful that I could, occasionally, hold down a little water. I had been so hopeful, too. My radiation had ended the day before, but as promised, the side effects got even worse after the treatment stopped. Of course, eventually, things improved, and I was able to be thankful for the opportunities to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with Survivor Summit/Livestrong; to climb Mount Fuji with my 75-year-old dad; to rack up more than 70 ski days; to complete my 6th (and last) Ironman; to travel to Ireland for the first time; and to have many adventures made possible by that heinous cancer treatment.
This year, I feel pretty darn good, as close to “normal” as I ever am. I ran a 5k this morning with good friends… Entry fee: food for the Christian Center. Prize: Homemade apple pie for every runner.
After the run, I skied with yet another group of friends for a couple of hours. Now I’m home, stalling my preparation of Thanksgiving dinner, which is scheduled to begin in less than two hours.
But, eye-roll at the perverse nature of cancer, of course, I’m sick again. I’m now within 13 days of finding out how sick. On December 10th, I go back to the NCI for more scans. If the tumors around my lungs are only slightly bigger or not bigger at all, I get sent back to Park City for another couple of months. If the doctors don’t like what they see, I start my clinical trial immediately. Again, the perverseness (is that a word?) of cancer is that I worked so hard to find and get in to a trial, and now what I want most is not to start it. Once I start, I am most likely on the drugs for the rest of my life… or until something better comes along. which maybe it will, maybe it won’t.
Still, I can’t even get my arms around how much I am thankful for today. The title of this post is probably number one on my list. I am thankful that I am well enough to eat and drink (warning, guests!) too much tonight. I’m thankful that my recurrence happened now and not last year, so there are actually trials that will help me live longer and not just give researchers empirical information.
I’m thankful that I have supportive family and friends, all ready and willing (again!) to drop everything and help me when I need it. I’m thankful that they will also drop everything to have big and small adventures with me. Not that I ever procrastinate adventure, but that bucket list I have? I’m dumping it upside down starting last February. So get ready to be asked to do some traveling.
I’m thankful that I have the infrastructure in my life to do fun and rewarding stuff both for myself and to help others without having to report in to a job every day. From flying to Orlando for the premiere of “Conquering Kilimanjaro” to helping out at the National Ability Center in the horse barn and on the ski mountain to planning trips to NYC and LA in the next month to working at Best Friends Animal Society’s Super Adoption for two days (and visiting the ranch in Kanab. Awesome).
I’m thankful that cancer researchers have dedicated their lives to extending the lives of patients like me. And even if I have to start taking drugs in 13 days, I am deeply grateful that option exists and that angels across the country made that possible. In a month when we’ve seen the cancer deaths of MTV star Diem Brown and Cocktails and Chemo’s Joe Clark, both in their early 30s, I feel lucky and blessed to have lived to age 53… and even though I’m not well by anyone’s standards, I am alive and I have strength and options and hope. And I can still run a 5k, even though it may take a pie to get me to do it. Livestrong, Live Fearlessly, and Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.