Tag Archives: personal milestones after cancer diagnosis

A pair of celebrations

As the feast that was a prelude to a major land grab (how’s that for gratitude) Thanksgiving is likely no longer politically correct. But whereas Columbus Day is just a lie (you can’t discover a place that is already inhabited), Thanksgiving Day still has some major merit. I would argue that any holiday with thankfulness as the centerpiece is worth saving. Add in what to many of us is the ultimate in comfort food and a good dose of family and it becomes pretty much the perfect way to spend the fourth Thursday in November.


My father Ollie and baby Linnea

Some of my bias is strictly personal; I was born on Thanksgiving and seven birthdays hence have coincided with turkey day; tomorrow will be the eighth. Perhaps only someone who believed they’d never have the chance to grow old is so eager to share their age; I will be turning fifty six and am both damn happy and proud of it.

In the morning Peter and I will head to Longmeadow MA for Thanksgiving with the Lee family. Melinda Lee is preparing the traditional turkey and a Korean repast. As we give thanks I shall think of all the ways in which I have been so blessed. My three wonderful children and all of my extended family. Dear friends like Melinda, who I have been close to since we met in the third grade. The wealth of other friendships–ranging from my neighbors in the lofts to my lung cancer community (many of whom I know only online but increasingly those I get to meet in person as well). My wonderful oncologist Dr. Shaw and the rest of the medical team which is working so hard to give people like me a chance against cancer. And of course, the simple (and yet astounding) fact that I am having yet another birthday.

Happy Day.

Happy Day!

Fifteen years ago today I gave birth to a 10 lb 4 oz baby boy; our youngest, Peter Albion Duff. It was not an easy birth, for mother or child. His older sister and brother had each weighed a mere 6 pounds and some change, and I’d been able to employ lamaze breathing techniques for drug free, natural deliveries. I really tried to follow suit with Pete’s birth, but after far too many hours of labor, the attending physician suggested an epidural. The anesthesiologist, named Dr. Zipper (really), instantly became my favorite person of all time. Half an hour later, Peter emerged, or rather, was yanked free, to a chorus of “oh my god, he’s huge!” Aside from a temporarily misshapen head (which measured an astounding 15 and 1/2 inches in circumference), Pete was perfect. And I recovered.

Precious Pete

Seven years ago, on Pete’s eighth birthday, I was in house at MGH following a lobectomy. When his dad brought him to visit me in the hospital, Peter crawled into my bed and just sort of made these small animal sounds. It broke my heart, but also reinforced the fact that not surviving wasn’t an option. Our Christmas card that year was a photo of David, Peter and myself at the beach. I am about two months post chemo and we all have the same haircut.

So, another milestone. Pete is excited that he is six months away from qualifying for a learner’s permit to drive (oy vey). I am thrilled just to be present; to have the chance to witness my (big) little boy well on the way to becoming the wonderful grown-up he will become.

Happy, happy birthday!