In gratitude

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So I’m about to tell you something that is either going to make you laugh or cry. Or not. Maybe you’ll just want to punch me in the face.

Sometimes I get really, really tired of being grateful.

Awful, isn’t it. I know how flipping lucky I am to be alive and most days, my gratitude is boundless. However, twelve years of being grateful for something most people take for granted (waking up in the morning) actually can get old.

As a cancer patient it is expected and accepted that you will feel all sorts of less than pretty emotions. Anger, sorrow, frustration, fear. Confusion. Depression. Bone deep weariness. All taken in stride.

But ingratitude?

The minute I start feeling anything resembling self pity I quickly self admonish. Because I am only too aware what the alternative is.

Those of us with terminal illnesses set the bar both impossibly high but also brutally low.

There is a self conciousness to life when every moment is fraught and at times I dearly miss the insouciance of before. As in, before cancer. The self awareness I have gained has been prompted by significant and persistent provocation. I am both wiser and sadder. And some mornings I’d just like to skip that part about being grateful.

Not because I’m not, but rather because there was something glorious about being so certain that something was due you that giving thanks never even crossed your mind.

I am beyond either innocence or assumption. And that’s ok. I have scans tomorrow, and an appointment with Dr. Shaw next Tuesday. The scans I could do without but the appointment with Dr. Shaw? There is no place I’d rather be. And yes, I will be feeling enormous gratitude.

39 responses to “In gratitude

  1. Grateful for your posts…Good luck tomorrow! Much appreciation for Dr Shaw too!

  2. Linnea, you write, as the Ancient Greeks would say, with ‘anhypocrites’. Literally, you write without a mask. You’re not full of pretence or hypocrisy. Thank you for sharing the real you. It is so easy to write what we think people would want us to say—but you don’t. Thank you!

    • Thank you. For reading along, commenting and for teaching me a new term. Yeah, there’s not much point in pretense now. Possibly one of the ‘gifts’ of our diagnosis.

  3. Linnea, I always enjoy reading your posts. A book called “Simple Abundance” was my first introduction to keeping a gratitude journal. Every night one was to write 3 things that they were grateful for that day. I think we can all be grateful that we wake up in the morning. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Enjoy your life!

    • Robbie, my answer would probably always be the same (my three kids). But yes, waking up is good but some mornings it is a bit like porridge warmed over and I think we just need to be real about that.

  4. Amen, been there done that.. 10 years for me after iagnosed as “terminal”

  5. Linnea,
    We met not long after you had been accepted into the trial/study. My kids were at Sant Bani with Peter. I have so often thought of you over the years. I was already a cancer survivor by then. I was so thrilled to see your blog and have a way to get back in touch with you. You brought Peter to a party in Gilford to introduce my exchange students to the school the August before they started. My three youngest kids were at Sant Bani briefly. Caroline, Matthew and Katherine. Caroline was in Peter’s class. I would love to see you again.

    • Liz, I remember you (and your kids, your exchange students, and our visit to your house) so well. It is great to hear from you. I will pm you and let’s see if we can meet up soon.

  6. Well said Linnea….

  7. Linnea … you write from your heart and speak your feelings. I so admire that. I personally believe your feelings are “normal”. Everyone deserves a pity party now and then. The main thing is you do not stay celebrating that pity party … as you have demonstrated over and over again. Don’t admonish yourself. Accept these temporary feelings … and, knowing you as I do your blogs and through FB, I know you will rise above it once more.

  8. Dear Linnea — all I can say to that is AMEN! Great luck with the scan, and enjoy your appointment with Dr. Shaw. And, yes, I’m grateful for your posts because, among other things, they make me feel a little more like I felt “before.” Hugs, Kate

    • Thank you Kate. Sometimes it’s difficult to recall exactly what before was like but I am so grateful for community in the now—it makes it so very much easier and more meaningful as well.

  9. Hi Linnea. First of all, you are OK to not feel grateful. You are just freakin tired today. It’s alright. Prayers and prayers are all around you and your family. Your appointment with your dear Dr. Shaw will have even more prayers surrounding you. You are freakin entitled to not feel grateful.


    This too shall pass

    • Linda, I almost used the word entitled in my post (‘entitled to morning’) and now you’ve helped me feel entitled anyway 🙂 xo

  10. I think anyone who would want to punch you or be sad that you have a touch of the normals isn’t human themselves. Good luck with your tests, will try to catch up on your blog in the next week (just discovered you via Twitter).

    • Thank you, glad you ran across the blog. I think it can be hard to look in just as sometimes I forget to look out.

  11. Appreciate how honest you are, Linnea. I think it’s wonderful how grateful you are (and aren’t). 🙂

  12. Really love your attitude…

  13. Hugs to you. You feel what you feel. Nonody can say you have to feel a certain way. You live under a constant stress. I am amazed by you and share your story with people who need to hear it. You are so strong and brave and wonderful!

  14. The most honest,raw,hit the nail on the head…post!
    I love this,Linnea.

    • Thank you Mara. This one was hard to write and I honestly didn’t know where it was going, just what I was feeling ❤

  15. Ringing bells Linnea … Ringing bells …. Ringing True!

  16. Hi Linnea, I agree with Nancy; “you feel what you feel”. It has been almost 3 1/2 years since Peter’s diagnosis, prompted by collapsing in the shower one cold December morning. Without even trying, dates are now as BC and AC.
    Peter is almost always resolute. Me, not so much; there are good days and bad. It is the elephant in the room, the last thing you think of before you pass out and the first thing you think of when you awake. It seems like forever in some regards. But, 12 years! Wow! I hope I will still be sending you good luck wishes on Peter’s 12 year anniversary.
    Good luck with your scans and your visit with Dr. Shaw. Coming from Rochester, NY, I always feels such comfort and hope, walking from the hotel, across the Commons, down Charles Street and up the elevator at Yawkey. I’m sure you do too!

    • Jon, I like that word; resolute. And it is one big elephant for sure. At times the beast wreaked havoc on my family but we are all still standing (if not all together anymore). I can picture the two of you en route (on foot) to MGH. And yes, Alice is the calm center to my storm. We are all fortunate (and grateful!) to have her by our sides.

  17. Linnea, thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. I have had days where I felt the same way. I am usually grateful for the gift of the day, but there are days when I just want to be like other people who do not have to deal with cancer every day of their life. I am grateful to still be here living each day, but I struggle with feelings of self-pity when I cannot do the things that I used to do before my diagnosis. It is a delicate dance to be a realist and dreamer at the same time. What keeps me afloat is my faith and knowing with God, all things are possible. I will pray for you that you have a great scan and many, many more years of finding things in your life to be grateful. You are a wonderful writer and a hero to all of us who are battling lung cancer!

    • Thank you Julie. I love your statement regarding the ‘delicate dance’ between realist and dreamer. It can be a tough, tough balance even on the easy days. xo

  18. This post was a hard one for me. It’s like answering those questions when you meet a new doc for the first time: do you get depressed? Do you ever have suicidal ideation? Do you find yourself thinking about death? And all the real answers are yes.

    Fuck, don’t they understand where I live? We’re halfway through March and the devastation in my little lung cancer community has already been devastating. I keep losing people, and my body continues to deteriorate. I’m 11 years out from my diagnosis, but my body continues to decline at a rate very much differently than most of my non cancer peers. I can’t work, and I keep burning through funds I can no longer hope to replace, and I’ve long been at a point where my family would be better off financially if I died today than if I lived another eleven years. Hell, I don’t know if I can afford to live another eleven years.

    So I don’t really answer honestly because they wouldn’t get it. They don’t get it because they don’t think about dying. They think I should just be grateful to be alive because most others haven’t made it that long. But they’ve never lived through the costs of survival. I don’t inspire others by being a wonderful person – I inspire them because this vessel of a body I’ve been given continues to breathe!

    I’m not grateful all the time. Hell, there are times when I wish it would just end, times when I’m certain dying now – right now – because I’m just so fucking tired. Because the physical pain sometimes gets too hard to deal with, and because there are so many things I just can’t do anymore.

    So I read your post yesterday, and I had to think about it for a while. I had to think about honest answers to the questions it poses. No, I’m not always grateful. Yes, I do think about death a lot. Yes, I do sometimes envy those that don’t make it. No, I don’t want to die, but I do wonder what’s on the other side of that door.

    And no, none of these comments means that I don’t love my life, my family, or life in general. What I’d does mean is that I know how tenuous this life is, that I know how possible it is to lose it all, and how priceless every breathe is.

    Should I just sign this as Debbi Downer? I don’t mean to be. But part of this experience is pretty dark. Just because others don’t want to hear it doesn’t mean it ain’t so.

    So yes, you pissed me off, got me to think, and I tend to agree with what you’ve written. Mostly, I just love you for writing it.

  19. Jim, your response is a post in itself (a dark, beautiful post). I love your honesty, I honor your feelings, I know how hard you’ve worked on behalf of others, your family and yourself to keep life moving forward and I absolutely feel that exhaustion. Yours and mine. This is a hard, hurtful journey we are on and yes, even with the obvious good (us, all of us) the innocence of the past beckons like a long nap in the sun.


  20. I hope your appointment with Dr. Shaw goes well tomorrow Linnea. Your post lead my thoughts to strong feelings of my own. As you know my husband died of lung cancer 5 1/2 years ago. When I am asked about his death I still need to add that my husband was a life time non smoker. I get mad with myself that I feel I need to let them know he did nothing to cause this. Then I feel guilty because what about the smokers. They did not want to get sick and are not doing anything illegal. These feelings used to unsettle me for days. I cope better now as I can acknowledge the feelings but let them go. Strong feelings mean we care about something. It makes us human.
    Best wishes…..Beryl

    • Beryl, I was thinking of you and Guillermo just yesterday, and how important his commentary was to me and how sad I am that I didn’t actually get to meet both of you. But per those strong feelings—you don’t need to justify anything. Those of us who have been impacted by cancer, whether it was ours or that of someone we care for, have been handed a raw deal. We can line it with silver all we like but it is but what it is in the end.

      xoxo Linnea

  21. This was so refreshing to read. Thank you for your honesty.

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