At this time last year, I probably had leukemia and I didn’t even know it.
The timeline is not concise, there is no way of telling exactly when it began, but likely during these early days of October, those asshole cells started replicating and taking over. I recall feeling a little tired and low on appetite, but it was nothing too abnormal nor worth reporting.
At the time, Pete and I were just beginning a housesit in Washington state. Canadian Thanksgiving came and went without either of us paying much mind to it as we were busy settling into our two month stay. We aren’t much for holiday celebrations when it is just the two of us anyway.
Little did either of us know that in a few short weeks, I would be embroiled in a battle for my life.
Fast forward one year, and on this Thanksgiving day, I am just over nine months in remission. I am still beset with an array of effects that are lingering from past and new medications: I am constantly fatigued, my heart still sometimes behaves erratically, and there are new things (tinnitus!) that pop up irregularly. I have hair – thankfully, it did come back – but it is growing in awkwardly and is often unmanageable. I could write for a very long time about the grief and emotional struggles I still face.
But today is not the day for that. Today, I read of a woman who recently lost her mom to this rare leukemia. And, as this specific strain is known to do, it took her life in a matter of mere days. This happens to roughly 10-15% of people with the disease, and she was one of those unlucky few.
That very easily could have been me. On diagnosis, I was at high risk for such early death occurring. The doctors and nurses promised on admittance that they wouldn’t let me die from it. At the time, I definitely wasn’t so sure (and I don’t honestly believe they could have been either).
And so here I am, looking at this Thanksgiving day like I never have before. First and foremost because hey, I’m still here. I am reporting from the other side of cancer. And the chances that I will never have to deal with this specific disease again are very small.
But this Thanksgiving is really about so much more than that. For the first time in this past year, I feel truly and wholly thankful for how rich my life is in love and good fortune.
My heart is full…
The community that surrounds us is something that still astounds and humbles me, and I will forever be grateful for the support we’ve received. From our close friends who rallied around us, to our blog readers and travel blogging community who sent love from afar, and also the travel industry in Canada who have embraced us upon our return – we have felt constantly supported and loved. I honestly don’t even have the words to quantify what it has all meant to us. All I know is that the positivity I have today stems from every ounce of love sent our way.
I am thankful to call Canada home. By the pure lottery of birth, I am proud to be part of a nation that is peaceful, progressive, and full of compassionate people. Access to the socialist health care system not only saved my life, but saved my future, by not indebting me for the rest of my days.
I am thankful for my beautiful family and being able to fully connect with them again after several years of short visits and Skype calls. I am especially grateful for my mom and her tireless support, my sister for embracing our relationship like neither of us ever have before, and for my inspirational nephews and nieces who make me feel better about the future of the world we live in.
And of course my heart bursts with love for my husband. He has been an unflappable source of strength through all of this, and more. He nursed me back to health, dealt with his own bout of cancer, helped both our families when they’ve needed him, all while pushing our business to thrive. Another lottery won by me.
(I am especially grateful that he didn’t finish off the pecan pie from our familial Thanksgiving feast, so that I had a devilishly sumptuous breakfast this morning.)
In the time that the earth has made its way once around the sun, yes, my life has been turned upside down. I’ve had a lot to bitch about (thanks for sticking with me through it), but in that time I’ve also gained strength I didn’t know I had, and have never in my life felt more blessed and grateful.
I have a lot to be thankful for.