Reflections on Thanksgiving Now vs. Then

When I was growing up, Thanksgiving was all about the food. I couldn’t wait for the day to come so that I could eat my fill of turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, pecan pie, and other yummy options. Yes, we went around the table to give thanks because that was something the adults wanted to do, but the focus of Thanksgiving for me was definitely the meal.

Celebrating my 5th Thanksgiving

Let’s fast forward to Thanksgiving 2018. This will be the 5th Thanksgiving I have celebrated with my family since my diagnosis with stage IV lung cancer shortly after Thanksgiving 2013. I have much to be thankful for and to be honest, I couldn’t care less what I eat for Thanksgiving. Of course, we will still have turkey and all the trimmings, but I have definitely joined the crowd who sees the importance of giving thanks.

A nerve-wracking Thanksgiving in 2013

I’d like to flash back to Thanksgiving 2013 for a moment. Having just celebrated my older son turning 13 at his bar mitzvah earlier in November, my husband and I decided not to visit family for the holiday (everyone had just been in town for the bar mitzvah) and planned an overnight trip to a hotel nearby in Wisconsin that had a delicious sounding Thanksgiving buffet. What should have been a relaxing weekend, however, ended up being incredibly stressful for me.

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You see, I had just received the results of an MRI of my elbow prior to leaving for Thanksgiving; this MRI revealed that the problems I was having with my right elbow were due to a mass that was eating away the bone at the joint, as opposed to the diagnosis of tennis elbow I had been given six months before. My orthopedist had referred me to an orthopedic oncologist and I had scheduled an appointment for the first week in December, as soon after Thanksgiving as there was an opening.

Then came the unimaginable

I was not feeling particularly thankful on that Thanksgiving as I went through the motions of enjoying the food and other amenities at the hotel. I was worried about the wording on the radiology report and kept googling different types of bone tumors and their prognoses. Although my husband knew about the MRI results, my then 10 and 13 year old boys did not. So, I pasted a smile on my face and pretended all was fine while I played board games and swam in the hotel pool along with them.

Little did I know that I would soon be on an unimaginable fast train speeding towards a diagnosis on December 26, 2013 with stage IV lung cancer that had spread to my bones and brain — just one month later. My elbow stiffness and pain were my only indications of what was going on in my body and if I had not listened to these symptoms, I would not be here today.

So much to be thankful for

I have been fortunate to have celebrated five Thanksgivings with my family since that nerve-wracking Thanksgiving in 2013 — Thanksgivings that I didn’t expect to celebrate when I first received my diagnosis. I feel well and am extremely thankful for the targeted therapy that has allowed me to continue to have an excellent quality of life. Our family has decided not to cook again this year; we are celebrating Thanksgiving at a local restaurant with a buffet. I am now one of the first people at the Thanksgiving table to suggest going around and giving thanks.

Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on June 23, 2024, Ivy Elkins passed away. Ivy’s advocacy efforts and writing continue to reach many. She will be deeply missed.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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