What am I grateful for this Thanksgiving season? That's easy - that I'm NED. If that acronym doesn't ring a bell, count yourself lucky. They may only be three little letters, but they bring with them a powerful message: No Evidence of Disease.
I'll never forget the first time I saw NED on my healthchart, circled in red like so many grades I'd gotten over the years. Scrawled by my oncologist as he hurried to his next appointment, no doubt. I wondered if it ever got routine for him, or if he felt a rush of pride or energy from delivering good news to his patients. Not that it could compare to how I felt, three years ago, to see those letters attached to my folder.
The mix of feelings was indescribable: relief and joy, mostly, with still a bit of anxiety curling around the edges. Questions formed immediately. "Were they sure? How long before a temporary NED becomes permanent, like a tattoo?" But as I made my next appointment with the receptionist - 6 whole months away - I tried to push those gnawing fears aside. My predominant emotion was gratitude.
On the drive home that blustery November day, my gratitude took the shape of all the faces of folks who had helped me get through. I've thanked them all privately, of course, but this year I'd like to give a public shout-out:
- To the amazing chemo infusion nurses, whose daily job was to treat an army of cancer patients -- all wishing to be ANYwhere but there. Despite the grim circumstances, they shared family anecdotes or bad jokes to help us pass the time. Week after week, they buoyed our spirits. They were my angels.
- To my doctors and their staffs, whose knowledge and skill formed the foundation of my road to recovery. Without their diligence and care, the outcome could have been very different. They were my watchdogs.
- To my neighbors, who generously offered meals and rides, sent flowers and cards. Many were friends, but several I barely knew before my diagnosis. Some had been touched by cancer, but for many, it was a new specter that hit uncomfortably close to home. And yet they showed up, time and time again. They were my troops.
- To my family members, who had already a disproportionate amount of experience with this awful disease. Despite very busy lives, they were always there for me at the drop of a hat. They were my rock.
- To my girlfriends, in front of whom no brave face was necessary. By treating me exactly the same, they made me feel reassured the world had not turned completely upside down. They were my respite.
- To my husband and kids, who were thrown a curveball by this illness just as much as I was. Their fear was palpable but their love was stronger. They were my reason to survive.
And so, during this month of Thanksgiving, I'm sending overflowing gratitude to all of you, from the bottom of my heart. Year after year, after year.