Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Thoughts -- Take One

Since I was in high school, this week has always been one of my most favorite weeks of the year. I know I'm not unique in this respect, and I love what most people love about this week -- family gatherings, football games, mounds of food, the first Christmas preparations. In fact, if I was forced to decide on my favorite holiday of the year, I would choose Thanksgiving. So you may be surprised when this entry takes on a bit of a sour attitude. Apologies in advance. I can just feel it coming.

Sometimes when I choose to write about a predictable topic, like Thanksgiving on the Monday before the holiday, I stop and think about the predictable approach. I ask myself, What would a reader expect me to write? I try to answer, not so that I can meet those expectations, but so that I can identify them as just that -- only expectations -- and not tie myself to them, even subconsciously, as I start to write about what I really think.

Tonight as I asked myself that question, I started to think that many people would maybe expect an entry about how this year more than any I will be thankful for all of the good things in my life. That I will savor the taste of turkey like never before. That I will stop to cherish every play at my hometown football game and every moment seated around the table with my family. Yeah, that would be the sweet, neat, pretty entry. But for me, at least tonight, that just wouldn't be the whole truth. 

At the risk of sounding like a brat, I again find myself trying to pick myself up from a sour mood. I find bad moods are the worst when I can't really figure out why I'm still in one. And tonight, that's just what's happening. 

It's not like anything drastically bad happened today. I went into Ropes to meet with Wendy, my pro bono client I have mentioned before, and the other two associates with whom I am working on Wendy's case. At Ropes, I saw so many great people that I hadn't seen in far too long, and they made my day bright. My family had previously blessed my Orange Line trip from Back Bay over to my own office (my counts don't drop really low until about one week after my treatment), and it felt liberating to travel on public transportation. When I got to my office, it was so nice to catch up with my colleagues, and I enjoyed some left over Chinese food from the group lunch I had missed a few hours earlier -- yummy (then heartburn). I had planned to stay at work until six, when a group of my law school friends were getting together for a long overdue dinner out. But by 3:30, I couldn't stand the pain in my arm any longer, and I had to go home. That's when my bad mood set in. 

Ever since my treatment last week, my right arm has felt like someone took a baseball bat to it. In my years playing sports, and then just being a klutz who tripped and slipped on things, I've had some pretty bad bruises. Since last week, my arm feels like it should be covered in the worst black and blue I have ever experienced, only it's not black and blue at all. Aside from the hives over the weekend, there's nothing there. This morning, I got fed up with the pain, so I left a message for Danielle, Dr. Bunnell's P.A., to see if she had any advice. 

Danielle called back in the middle of my meeting with Wendy so I ducked out for a few minutes. Danielle told me that there are two things that they watch for with the kind of pain I was describing. The first was infection, but since I didn't have any redness or swelling, she didn't think it was that. The second was a blood clot, but she didn't think it was that either, thank goodness. For now, I'm just supposed to take Advil regularly and keep warm presses on it. So that's what I left my office early to do, and what I've been doing ever since. Until I had to start typing this out, of course. 

Having to cancel on my friends definitely put me in a bad mood. I managed to bounce out of it after my entertaining commute home with my Mom, despite that it took us an hour and 20 minutes to get home (my kind, smart, loving mother can throw an awesome left-of-the-right-ring-finger when she gets cut off and that always makes me laugh). I ate dinner with my arm wrapped in a heating pad, and our good friend Conor, who visited with Spinelli's in hand, kept us all in great company. Whenever Conor comes by, we have our obligatory laugh about the day Brian and I got engaged -- Brian asked me to marry him on the Bowdoin College quad on Columbus Day weekend, 2004. After I said yes (or maybe I just cried and put the ring on, but I meant, yes), we headed to the football game to enjoy an October day in the sun. There we saw Conor and when we wanted to grab something to eat, we invited him to join us. So off we went -- Brian, Conor, and I -- to celebrate our engagement at the all-you-can-eat-Chinese-food buffet just beside the Bowdoin College football field. Ah, China Rose. How yummy are your crab rangoons and soft serve ice cream sundaes. I guess I always was a cheap date. 

I've gotten off track. Yes, it was great to see Conor and my arm felt slightly better with the heat and the Advil. I'm trying to not be bummed that I missed my law school friends tonight because I'm hopeful that I'll get to see them sometime soon. But tonight has showed me something I'm really not great at; a weakness that always puts me in a bad mood -- admitting that I don't feel good enough to do something I planned to do. 

Which brings me back to this week. Aside from Christmas, Thanksgiving may be one of the busiest days of the year. On a typical Thanksgiving, we go to the Canton-Stoughton football game, then to Southie for Brian's family meal, then to my parent's house for a second family dinner. It's a jam-packed day, and I love every single minute of it. I usually even get up early to clean or exercise so that I can savor having the whole day ahead of me. I cherish it that much. 

What's making me mad tonight is that I really didn't need cancer to remind me to be thankful. I swear, I couldn't have been more thankful on prior Thanksgivings. I would always think to myself that being together and being healthy were what mattered most. Everything else was just details. 

But this year, there's a certain detail that kind of pisses me off -- it starts with can and ends with cer. I'm mad that it's going to make my favorite jam-packed day harder to stomach. I'm mad that it's going to make the turkey that my Dad so loyally bastes all day long taste like metal. And I'm mad that my stupid arm hurts so much that I really should go apply more heat. 

The other day I heard that Tim McGraw song, "Live Like You Were Dying." I used to like that song. Now I freaking hate it. I went skydiving, I went Rocky Mountain climbing, I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu, And I loved deeper, And I spoke sweeter, And I gave forgiveness I'd been denying, And he said, "Someday I hope you get the chance to live like you were dying." I think I'll barf now. Fine, I'm glad cancer gave Tim McGraw's real or invented friend some perspective. But I swear to you, I didn't need cancer to help me love deeply. I really already did. 

I also find it hard to believe that someone going through cancer treatment can find the time, money, or energy for skydiving or mountain climbing. I'm lucky if I get a shower, and now I dread those because I'm afraid the heat is going to cause me more hives. So I take colder showers. Fun. 

And I don't want to ride in any f-ing rodeo. I just want to sit at the Thanksgiving Day game with my Dad like I have every year since I was eight. I want to have the energy to chase my kids up and down the bleachers, and then pack them in the car to drive to Grandma's house. I want to return to my parents' house and sit around the table until we're too tired to talk or laugh anymore. And I want to fall asleep in a food coma, not a nauseous-from-chemo coma. 

Alright, it's official, this rant definitely makes me feel like a brat, which actually just makes me feel worse. Screw it. Maybe it wasn't the right approach, despite my pledge for honesty above all. Tomorrow, I'm going to write about my Dad and his awesome Thanksgiving week traditions. Because I haven't written enough about my Dad, and his traditions could bring me out of my very worst mood. Yeah, I definitely need a "take two" on this Thanksgiving entry. Count this one as the devil on my shoulder, or my sore right arm, if you will. Tomorrow will be the angel on my other shoulder, or better yet, my left arm -- the one that's not at all sore because the infusion can't come through the arm from which my lymph node was taken. Which reminds me, that lymph node was negative. Maybe I should have just remembered that an hour ago and called it a night. 


  1. Tara, one thing you are not, and that is a brat :) We had a great time last night but it would have been really fantastic to see you. We will do it as soon as you are able. Maybe we can squeeze something into the next week or so. I love your honest posts most of all. Yeah - Tim McGraw, blecch! Phony. Who wants to ride in a f-ing rodeo? You make me laugh, see you soon, xoxo Jen

  2. You are not a brat,and no one needs cancer to wake them up, shake them up or make them grateful. No one needs cancer. No one.

    You were a good person before cancer and clearly appreciated your family, friends, husband, children, job, education - all of it. enjoy your most favorite holiday like you always have. Cancer didn't prompt that.