“Gratitude, thankfulness, or appreciation is a positive emotion or attitude in acknowledgment of a benefit that one has received or will receive.” – taken from Wikipedia (because I liked their definition better than dictionary.com’s)
A few days ago I sat down and read Roger Ebert’s story. Like many Americans born in the wake of Vietnam, I grew up wanting his job. I can remember waking up ridiculously early on Friday mornings just to hear him and Gene Siskel tell me what movies were worth my $3 or $4 that week. At some point in the early eighties, I watched the two of them in an interview discussing their film-watching rituals and how they managed to squeeze in 10-20 films each and every week. Even if I often disagreed with their opinions, the fact that they got paid to watch movies all day still made them two of the coolest people on television. To this day, film critic is still pretty high on my list of things I want to be when I grow up.
Several years ago I heard that Roger Ebert had cancer. I think I simply filed that information somewhere in my brain’s card catalog and responded with an, “Oh, isn’t that sad.”
To be honest, I thought he died. Then a couple of weeks ago, I heard a stranger say in passing, “Did you see Roger Ebert on Oprah yesterday.” To which a 2nd stranger responded, “Yes! Thyroid cancer is awful! Can you believe how terrible he looks?!” 1st stranger, “And he’ll never talk or eat again! Can you imagine?!”
My head was spinning. I came home and Googled him and sure enough, he had thyroid cancer. And….he looked awful. And…he’ll never eat or speak again. And….he had the exact same kind of cancer as me.
Papillary carcinoma. That’s the ugly name. I had people tell me that it’s the “Cadillac of cancers”. There’s no such thing. I had 7 tumors. The largest was 4.2 cm. You know what the difference is between my cancer and Mr. Ebert’s? Mine grew down under my collar-bone and his grew up into his jaw-bone. That’s it. His wasn’t bigger or different in any other way. It was still papillary carcinoma and it simply grew in a different direction.
I feel immense gratitude. I say often that I am blessed beyond measure and I have more things in my life to be thankful for than I could possibly even begin to count. I am still in the process of writing an entire book on my healing and I hope that there is never a single day when I fail to acknowledge that my life is a miracle.
So to add to my list of blessings, I am now grateful for cancer cells growing down instead of up.