Without a doubt, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Christmas comes in as a very close second, but there’s just something about the non-commercialism and the simplicity of Thanksgiving that puts it at the top of my list. I love the colors, smells, tastes and time-honored traditions of the fourth Thursday in November. For me, it signifies the beginning of a special time dedicated especially for giving thanks and thinking of others as another year comes to a close. Interestingly enough, this time of year also marks the anniversary of two very challenging times in my life. One being our introduction to NAIT upon Clara’s birth and the other being the first shock of my adult life: My melanoma diagnosis.
It was just about nine years ago this week I received word that a mole that had been removed from my right breast was being sent out to another lab for a second opinion. At the time I didn’t think too much of it as I was a twenty-five year old woman with a strong sense of immortality and a dash of naiveté. I remember sitting at my parents’ dining room table on Thanksgiving Day of 2003 sharing the news of the second opinion biopsy with my dad. I distinctly recall the stark look of concern, which at the time I misread as less serious than had been intended, that quickly clouded his face. A few days later, on December 2nd, my doctor called with the results of the second opinion: She apologized as she told me that I had Stage 1A melanoma and needed to schedule an appointment with a surgical oncologist to remove the surrounding area of skin as soon as possible. Just over two weeks later, a large scar marked the area where the cancer had once been and my abrupt orientation into the adult world was officially underway. Thankfully, all of the cancer was removed during my surgery and has never returned. I have had a couple of scares since 2003 — another precancerous mole and a couple of enlarged lymph nodes — but as far as I know, my body has been cancer-free for almost an entire decade.
As this year’s monumental holiday approached, I spent a significant amount of time reflecting on what I am thankful for this year. Last year with a belly full of both turkey and Elyse, I wrote about being grateful for Clara, Taylor, family and friends, and the thousands of blood donors who made my pregnancy possible. Today, I would like to add another item to the above list (which I’m sure will continue to grow as the years move on). This year, I am also thankful for — second chances. Without mine, I know that I wouldn’t be here celebrating another Thanksgiving with my husband and two beautiful daughters. For whatever reason, we caught my cancer in time. Though I cannot explain why I was one of the lucky ones, I try as hard as I can not to take my second chance for granted.
Since being given a second opportunity at life, I’ve found that I’m more inclined to take my time, to enjoy everything that’s going on around me. Each day is truly a gift and I don’t intend on wasting any of them. So, you may find me savoring a favorite dessert, setting new fitness goals and throwing myself into any project that comes my way. During the holidays, I find a great deal of joy in decorating my home, baking goodies and picking out that perfect gift. And though some may find my obsession with details a bit annoying, I think it’s the little things that make life worth living.
I know that we’ve all been granted a second chance at one time or another. And for all of those times when you were given an opportunity for a “do over,” I hope that you took the time to appreciate just how special and rare a second chance can be. Every morning I feel so blessed that I have been given one more chance to wake up to my family and spend another day caring for my girls. And when things get the best of me and life’s stressors cause me to lose focus, I think about what it would be like if I hadn’t been so lucky nine years ago.
As another Thanksgiving comes to its bittersweet end and I ready myself to face a beautiful new day, I am thankful for the good, the bad and the ugly that it may bring. And if there were no tomorrow for me, I could rest peacefully knowing that I lived, loved and laughed this day to the fullest.