I wore my dad’s funny fake-hair hat to school this week.

My feel-good week

I felt almost normal this week.  Until I was reminded that I am not.  I anticipated a good weekend before my next treatment but woke up Saturday morning feeling blue.  That night I started losing my hair.  Then yesterday, Tuesday, I met with my oncologist and got freaked out again. 

Because of what I said to her on the phone last time, she took another look at the ultrasound report and acknowledged that yes, there is a lot of “lymph node involvement.”  She wants to do a PET scan.  ASAP.  That is a full-body scan looking for cancer.  It is important to do that before the chemo has a significant effect, because if there is something elsewhere now, that means that I should have the targeted infusions for the rest of my life.  In terms of scaling back my current treatment, we will talk about that later.  She currently has a patient who is tolerating it okay and has decided to finish it in the hopes that it will do something.  This was all very upsetting.  The scan is next week. 

First hints of hair falling out. It now comes out in clumps.

When I woke up feeling badly on Saturday, I did two things.  I forced myself to walk out in nature (with the encouragement of two friends who can be direct; one even asked for photographic proof that I had done so).  And I started a gratitude list.

Gratitude List

I am grateful for many things, but these are specific to my current journey:

  • Notes of appreciation from former students and their parents
  • Continued check-ins and good wishes
  • Direct and adamant taking away of some of my responsibilities at school
  • Being with me during major appointments
  • Listening to my flow of medical details
  • An offer to come over to pick the remote up off the floor
  • Surprise treats – some sweet (literally or figuratively), some funny
  • Warm expressions of kindness from complete strangers who can sense that something is wrong
  • Warm expressions of kindness from complete strangers who don’t sense anything is wrong, but they are just naturally kind.  They have no idea what their gestures have meant. 
  • Piles of cash and gift cards to help with those mounting costs
  • Accepting that it is okay not to send thank you notes to everyone
  • Being treated in an infusion center that pays attention to aesthetic details and integrative healing
  • Incredibly kind infusion nurses
  • Finding humor in certain desserts
  • Books and flowers that show up at random times
  • Knowing mom is being taken care of in ways big and small
  • Elephants
  • My adjustable bed and comfy chair
  • Shipments of comfort blankets, socks, and stuffed animals
  • Words of encouragement from people who have been there, and from people who have not
  • Cards, both touching and funny
  • Pre-start game night
  • Allowing me to be present but not contributing to conversations
  • Friends travelling across country to help, and those who wish they could
  • My decision to move to a condo with far fewer upkeep responsibilities
  • The day my students all wore pink for me
  • Gifts of chemo hats, purchased and homemade, comfy and funny
  • Listening to my complaints without trying to minimize them
  • Students offering to help
  • Top notch medical system
  • Appreciating my sense of humor
  • “Cuppas” with my neighbor
  • Rides to appointments
  • Imodium
  • Retrieval of my dad’s funny fake-hair hat
  • Lifetime pass to my favorite art museum
  • Hand-made tea mug from a potter I don’t know
  • Ability to get out for a walk, in nature, during my feel-good weekend
  • Colleagues who step in to cover classes and duties, and to grade my tests
  • For Thursdays, when I receive my weekly meals from others
  • Compliments on my hats
  • A dad who asked me how I was doing, just hours before he died
  • The person who spent many hours setting up this blog for me
  • For all of you who read my blog,
  • And the hope that this is all temporary

Compiling this list made me cry.  A lot.  I have not often been able to cry during this horrible year but trying to receive kindness graciously usually provides the necessary trigger.  Thank you all.  Tomorrow, Thursday, I take your good wishes with me to my second infusion.

10 thoughts on “Gratitude

  1. You are a very generous person, my friend. You are a very special person to lots and lots of people. With a fine sense of humor, as witness the appropriate dessert Blog —


  2. Love the hairy hat! For some reason it reminds me of a building in Downtown Salt Lake City with grass growing on the roof. Maybe it’ll grow faster if you water it 🙂


  3. Your gracious list of gratitude items has me starting to make a list of the ways I feel gratitude for you, my friend. Among the many kindnesses you have extended to my family and me, I will always be grateful for the time you packed a bag and showed up to stay with me after my car accident. Know that I’m there with you in thought and prayer–today and always.


  4. My own list of gratitude includes seeing how you manage crises head-on — with honesty, strength and humor. Students aren’t the only ones you are teaching!


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