10 Things to Be Thankful For When You Have Cancer

Patient Expert

Thankful - for cancer? While some scattered survivors are happy to have had cancer (me among them), most don't connect thankfulness with a deadly disease. Still, as Thanksgiving rolls around again (with the holiday frenzy right behind), I'd like to remind you that, despite cancer, there are still things in your life - at least 10 - for which you can be thankful.

1. You're alive.

That's a plus right there. Cancer kills; you could be dead. Instead, you're reading this. Take a deep breath and simply enjoy being.

2. Your medical team is devoted to you.

It's their job, sure. But more than that, it's their passion. There's something special about oncology, something that seems to draw the very best people, from schedulers to nurse assistants right on through surgeons, radiologists, and oncologists. They're going to do everything they possibly can to make sure you stay alive - and nearly as important, return to your normal life.

Dinner rolls

3. Soft, warm, home-baked dinner rolls.

Even in the midst of chemo, when I felt like I was living with a mouthful of copper pennies and a hot poker stuck down my throat, fresh, soft, warm-from-the-oven rolls, with a pat of butter inside, never ceased to bring a smile to my face. Maybe all I could do was nibble a corner and let the butter moisten my tongue, but even that was heaven.

4. You don't have to worry about getting cancer - you've got it.

Remember all the times you thought you felt a lump, and the sudden panic rose in your throat, and you pondered whether it was serious enough to call the doctor, and what if"? Worry no more! Been there, done, that, cross it off the list of life's potential disasters.

5. You're eligible to play the cancer card.

Exhausted from treatment? Remain seated on the subway or bus - even in the face of a young mom with two screaming kids and a shopping bag. Your mind may be pressuring, "Be polite! Offer your seat!" Ignore it - it's OK to give yourself a break, to play that well-earned cancer card.

6. You experience the very best in those around you.

OK, maybe a few of your friends have deserted you. But the vast majority of your family and friends rally round and give you everything they've got: love, hugs, a ride to the doctor, a shoulder to cry on - literally. Cancer brings out the best in people; relax into their warm embrace.


7. Sunrise.

No matter what you've been through, the sun still comes up every day. Take a moment to enjoy its warmth, light, and constancy.

8. You've discovered how strong you are.

Cancer might be the toughest thing you'll ever face, a physically, emotionally, and mentally devastating battle. But you're putting one foot in front of the other each day, and moving forward. It's brutal; you're strong. Give yourself a pat on the back.

9. Embrace your rawness.

You've got your favorite songs, right? Well, guess what? After cancer, they'll grab you with even greater intensity. The golden late-day sun slanting through your garden; a picture your daughter drew of you when she was 4; your dog's insanely happy face when you walk through the door (for the 12th time that day) - anything that made you happy before will bring you to joyful tears now.

10. Thanksgiving.

Wherever you are in your cancer journey, and wherever you spend Thanksgiving Day, pause to give thanks for the basics: for food, shelter, freedom, friends, family" for your life. Happy Thanksgiving!