This may go without saying, but for me this year Thanksgiving is complicated. Fifteen days ago, I was sitting in my car in a parking lot when my doctor called to share the news. A rush of scans, tests, biopsies, blood draws, and conversations with my oncologist have revealed that I do in fact have stage IV lung cancer – several tumors in my lungs that have metastasized to lymph nodes in my neck and lower abdomen.
Within the next few days I’ll begin a targeted therapy that has seen some good results both shrinking existing masses and delaying growth. I’ve learned that I actually have two particular mutations active in my cancer cells – a situation that occurs in less than 1% of cancer patients. Fortunately, the targeted therapy I’ll receive is effective with both. In addition, because of this I’ll likely be participating in a national study with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. My oncologist at Duke asked me if I wanted to be in the study, and of course I said, “Yes! Yes! Anything to I can do. Anything to fight. Anything to help kick cancer in the ass. Anything to add to the knowledge base and practices from which I’m benefitting now.”
So here we go. And this Thanksgiving, with life upside down, I have moments of fear, despair, doubt, deep sadness… But I have hope too. And a readiness to battle. And an undeniable sense of connection to you people in my life, who feel to me right now like this incredible, all-star cast of cancer-kicking, prayer-hollering banshee warriors who are mad as hell with me and lovingly hopeful for me. Friends, thank you. Reading your messages, I find myself cycling through the highlight reel of my life, and so many beautiful faces come into focus – so much laughter, so many tender moments, so many meaningful experiences, relationships, revelations, inside jokes, late night conversations, songs, campfires, visions, dreams, joy… so, so much. I hold it all now in a way I’ve not held it all at once before, and it fills me up.
So today Karla and I are grateful. Sad and mad – but hear me: grateful. Thank you, friends and family, for making that gratitude easier to come by. Raising a glass to you this Thanksgiving and thanking God for your presence in the world and in our lives. Much, much love.
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I have stage IV lung cancer and I write about that here. If you're out there and you're fighting cancer, solidarity. If you read "lung cancer" and you wonder if I was a smoker, read this. Living with cancer is a daily, death-defying reality - one that pushes me to not simply defy death, but to affirm life, bless goodness, cheer for wonder, celebrate beauty... you get the idea. I hope I do that here.