Happy Thanksgiving! I hope that all of you are able to spend some time with some loved ones and enjoy my favorite holiday! I suppose my love of Thanksgiving stems from it’s secular nature.
While Thanksgiving became a holiday that I enjoyed, it was never necessarily a day where I reflected on being Thankful. Then almost a decade ago, I had the opportunity to become involved in The Feast of Giving. I provided a lot of detail about the Feast in my post last week, so if you didn’t catch that, rewind a post and the details are all there. With the Feast, I began to see first hand, in a very concentrated window of time, life’s blessings. People from all walks of life, who are truly appreciative that they are being offered the opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving in a festive way. Whether they are indigent, widowers, small families that are new to the region, or just a group of people that don’t want to prepare their own meal, we bring those people together. For some of these people, this is one of the highlights of their year. It’s one of the few days where people treat them as patrons and not ‘handout recipients’. It’s one of the few times where they are encouraged to eat as much as they want and to relax and enjoy their surroundings. Unfortunately for a number of our guests, it may represent the only day where they comfortably mingle amongst people and avoid the stigma that accompanies societal biases. Each year I share with our volunteers that this is a day where we can change the tone of somebody’s life, even if it is just for a brief moment – and we do!
Once I started to experience that phenomenon, The Feast of Giving became one of our family’s way to acknowledge our blessings and to share our Thankfulness. The shape of my feelings about Thanksgiving continued to evolve and my blessings become ever heightened.
This year is different. Crazy as it might seem, I feel a heightened sense of good fortune. Fact, nobody gets out alive, in most cases, we don’t get a choice of how we die; but my Uber driver, Michelle, reminded me that we get to choose how we live. With that as a backdrop, I’m extremely blessed. There is no question, when under the veil of the side effects from treatments, it’s more challenging to see this as clearly, but I work really hard to maintain that outlook. This past week has been an introduction to the new side effects from a new protocol. So far, I’m coping with the side effects. I’m anxious about the cumulative nature of the drugs, but I just need to move from round to round, cope with the side effects and hope that the drugs do their work and leave my body strong enough to continue taking them.
I am really fortunate to have great health care professionals working on my case, both in Houston and Dayton. I receive extraordinary care at MD Anderson and am thrilled when I am able to have treatments here at Kettering Cancer Center. If you’re sick, having great care providers that don’t treat you as a case number, is a blessing.
We have our ‘angels’, the very special people that are there in very special and important ways that help us through the very dark, confusing and scary days. You know who you are, I’ve thanked you before and I am thankful for how you each help at this time of need and continue to be there as a critical part of our support system.
There have been so many people who bestow acts of kindness upon us, far too many to fathom listing. It is humbling and overwhelming to think of all of the comfort that people have gone out of their way to provide to us. I mentioned in a recent post that humanity is alive and well – it is definitely alive and well!
There are all of you that follow these blogs. You share your prayers, positive thoughts, send emails, take the time to call, check in via text; also quite humbling and overwhelming and definitely another example of state of humanity!
Our friends and relatives that are always present in some form, sharing their love, strength and support – so blessed to have you all there for us.
My family has been an extraordinary blessing. My daughter, Lindi, scheduling special time for the two of us plus Sid to go do something together, making sure that we get plenty of Sid visits and FaceTime calls. My daughter Allison, did all the lifting, as I was not strong enough to do so for Feast of Giving preparations. She visits often, becoming a black jack partner at Jack and always a worthy backgammon opponent. My son Jordan, he is constantly talking me up, assuring that my mental game is sharp. He knows when I’m down. He knows when I don’t feel well. He generally finds the right approach to help keep me on track. My son-in-law, Adam, has also put personal needs to the side to make sure that we get those all important visits from Sid. Then there is Felice, who yells at me each time I apologize for what she is going’s through. The only thing that sucks more than having cancer is having to be a care giver for somebody that is dealing with cancer. I believe that when a loved one is called to be a care provider, it captures the essence of their character. That’s where I believe we find the deepest definition of love. Felice is a true partner in this twisted journey. The silver linings in how our family has come together in response to my situation present themselves every day.
The best example of how I see blessings now happened Sunday. Allison came home, Lindi, Adam and Sid came up to spend the day and watch the Bengals game. I was feeling pretty decent and after lunch, I turned to Sid and said “let’s go see what we can play with downstairs.” Let’s be honest, the pecking order in Sid’s love hierarchy for our side of the family is really clear. There is mommy – she trumps all. Very difficult to get her attention when she is around. Then there is Daddy, whom she idolizes just like any 19 month old idolizes their Daddy. Then there is Nana. This kid gets a huge smile on her face every time she see’s Nana. When Lindi FaceTimes, and I answer, the first word out of her mouth is generally ‘Nana’. Then there is Allie, Jordan and Allie’s dog Nika, all of who probably fare pretty equally on the hierarchy. Then there is the rocking horse that we picked up recently at a charity auction – then comes Papa! Don’t get me wrong, the kid loves me, and I love her, but the hierarchy is indisputable. In this particular instance, she comes to me and grabs my hand, as if to say – ‘Hey Papa, I think you could use a little pick me up.’ We walked down the stairs ever so slowly, as walking down stairs is a developing skill for her. She had such a look of anticipation, as to what was going to happen when we got to the basement. When we got to the bottom and I turned the lights on, she cautiously continued to hold my hand for dear life. She just wasn’t certain what to expect – it’s a big room. I was expecting her to say ‘mama’ or ‘up’ any second, but we got over to one of our old play items – and she found a bunch of ping pong balls to play with. She kept on walking around with the balls not having a clue what to do, so I picked her up and set her on the ping pong table, thinking maybe I can get her to bounce a ball. No way, but eventually she laid on her tummy, head towards the net. I grabbed her gently by her ankles, sliding her back quickly on the smooth surface of the ping pong table, saying ‘Wheeee’. This was a huge hit – this went on for minutes and every time I stopped, was followed with the word ‘more’. Finally, I was worn out, so it was time to head upstairs. First though, time to clean up. Sid found every one of those balls and placed them back where she found them – ever so carefully, one at a time. We walked upstairs again, hand-in-hand, and our little adventure was over – except for the glow on my face that I had just spent 20 minutes, one on one with that little angel. What else is there – it’s the little things! That’s Thanksgiving on a micro level and yes, I feel truly blessed. The benefit I have, is I see this little 20 minutes of time as really special moments. Many people appreciate that moment, but the depth of their appreciation is often lost because these moments are viewed as ‘routine’ a matter of fact. For me, its magic!
Before I wrap up this Thanksgiving message, I want to appeal to all to discuss how critical it is for you and all your family members, friends and loved ones to see their Doctors regularly. Set up the annual physical, schedule the colonoscopy, mammogram, or whatever routine medical care is on your horizon. Take it seriously. Own your medical profile. Understand it. Do not minimize it. Guaranteed, I likely wouldn’t be writing this post if I hadn’t gone to my routine physical last year. It’s worth a brief discussion with those you care about and love.
I hope each of you find a way to experience a little piece of your own magic over your Thanksgiving weekend. Happy Thanksgiving!
Love, Mike. #ShaneStrong #CancerSucks #Megansabadass #BooCancer #HappyTurkeyDay