Like most people, I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving, which has always been my favorite holiday. Though this year, two things have cast a dark shadow over the joy of the day. First, it’s the first Thanksgiving I’ll celebrate without my beloved Nana. And second, now that I’m so entrenched in the stories of childhood cancer, I can’t even begin to imagine the agony that the families of Isabella Santos, Joey Aquaro, Ty Campbell, Emma Ford, Lane Goodwin, Avalanna Routh, Alivia Gibson–just to name a VERY small few–who will spend their first Thanksgivings without their beloved children. And I think of the families who somehow made it through the hurdle of the first Thanksgiving, but for whom the Thanksgiving hurdle never, ever goes away–the families of Ronan Thompson, Sal Vanni, Ezra Matthews, Jack Bartosz, and hundreds and hundreds of others.
And then there are the thousands of parents who will spend their Thanksgiving in hospitals, as their children are fed chemotherapy drugs instead of turkey. Those whose children are in treatment, but are lucky enough to have a small reprieve to celebrate the holiday. And let’s not forget those whose children are NED, but who live in constant fear of the cancer returning.
When I think of these thousands and thousands of families (and once you take the stories of these families into your heart, it’s impossible not to think of them all the time), I once again, think of Maya Thompson’s “live like a rockstar” mantra, and, because I owe it to her and to Ronan not to forget it, I do the usual giving of thanks for my beautiful, healthy children. I give thanks for every single day that I don’t have to live the horror of the cancer world, because I know that it can strike my family with just as much ease as it has struck others’ families. I give thanks for all the things I never even thought about before I understood the hell that is childhood cancer. I remember to be grateful for every single day, because the gift a healthy, hospital-free day is something that should NEVER be taken for granted.
But most importantly, I pray for the families who are suffering the unbearable loss of that empty chair this Thanksgiving. Because there is no agony worse. And because no one needs my prayers more than those parents who have lost a child to the beast that is cancer.