I dug into the archives of my own blog for this post. The first time I posted it, on Thanksgiving four years ago, I received a lot of comments. I thought it might ring true with some of you this year as well:
Before diving into their turkey, most families take time to go around the table and say what they are thankful for. Not my family. We are all about the food in the Rosenthal household and we always have been.
This doesn’t bother me. I come from a very demonstrative family. We express our gratitude on a regular basis, when it hits us in the moment. We don’t store it all up for a once a year gratitude fest.
I do have a ton that I am grateful for in my life. But cancer is not one of these things. Cancer has lead me to become a less judgmental person. I listen to others now in a way that I didn’t before. It has also turned me into a writer. But I feel pretty confident that I’ve always had the capacity to become a less judgmental person and a writer. If it didn’t come out through cancer, it would have come out through another, hopefully less painful route.
A lot of survivors say that if given the choice they would chose to have cancer because they are grateful for the changes it has brought to their life. In my book Everything Changes, I wrote about this issue at the end of my conversation with Greg, a young adult cancer patient in Alabama:
“Had good things come from my own cancer? Yes, talking to Greg in his truck was one of many, but I believed that I was a pretty decent and self-aware person who did not need this horrific experience to make me appreciate the world around me or my role in it. If people needed pain through which to learn life lessons (and I debated whether that was even true), opportunities to open oneself up to suffering abound, and it saddened me that most people do not make themselves vulnerable in this way until they have no other choice.”
My dog, my husband, my mom and dad, my father-in-law, my friends, my health insurance, and a roof over my head are on my list of things that I’m grateful for on a regular basis. Cancer is not one of them.
What about you? Is cancer on the list of things for which you give thanks?
To read other perspectives about cancer and gratitude, check out my book Everything Changes: The Insider’s Guide to Cancer in Your 20s and 30s.