Tuesday, November 19, 2013

a Thanksgiving post a week early

Just this past weekend Kym from Travel Babbles did a feature on being "Thankful in November". I was featured alongside the lovely ladies that are her sponsors this month.

I briefly mentioned that I was most thankful this year for health. Not just my own, but the health of my family as well.

A lot of blogs & Facebook status’ & twitter updates have mentioned, like they always do around this time of year, that we forget to be thankful. We get so busy that we forget how lucky we are to have a job & a house & clothes & food... & I completely agree.

But just think for a second what those things would even mean if you were sick or hurting.

Fortunately, not everyone gets completely shaken by illness. Many are lucky and never have to feel the weight of being sick or watch someone they love waste away because of pain. It is the worst kind of heartache and if you are one of those lucky few I hope you know it.

In 2011 my grandpa passed away. He was the toughest guy I have ever known but he was built with the softest heart. Our family is very small. For many, many years I was his only grandchild. My two little cousins didn’t come until I was almost eleven years old. My grandparents on both sides are basically just additional parents. They have been so engrained in my life and I couldn’t imagine it any other way. My grandpa showed up at everything for me. School recitals, ice skating lessons, you name it, he was there.

My grandpa was not what you would think of when you hear the word Grandpa.  He golfed multiple times a week, drove his 1988 Porsche often, and went on cruise vacations with my Grandma a couple times a year. This was no old fella, he was only 72 when he past. He had a lot of life and a lot of years ahead of him.

When I was in high school my Grandpa received a heart transplant. We thought we would lose him before he got his second chance but we didn’t.

A young 21 year old man lost his life on a motorcycle and my Grandpa got to live 9 more years because of him. I wasn’t brave enough at 15 to write a letter to that young man’s family but I wish now, more than anything, I had.

Unfortunately the down fall of transplants, is that you have to take an anti-rejection medication. It is strong as hell and ensures that your body won’t reject the new organ. That medicine after years of use can cause cancer.

I will never EVER forget my mom taking a call from my grandpa and him telling her that he had cancer. It had been 7 years since he received his heart.

Even worse yet, having cancer with a transplant doesn’t allow you to receive the strongest form of chemotherapy. It would do too much damage to the transplant organ and in this case my Grandpa’s heart. He could only receive baby doses. My grandpa never wavered in his strength and we all held our breath hoping the little bit of chemo would do something, anything.

Someone upstairs answered our prayers because we found out that the cancer faded after a few rounds of chemo. Meaning that my Papa had a whole extra year to golf, travel and give me a hard time :)

A year later though they found a tumor on his brain. But don’t get sad yet, my Grandpa beat that too. My Grandpa had brain surgery, brain surgery!!! and it didn’t even faze him. Only an hour after surgery, he held my hand, called me his pumpkin and asked how I was doing. I still can’t even comprehend that. I just remember being so happy and completely blown away at what this man could endure. 

Unfortunately almost exactly a year later we found out that he was bleeding out because the cancer was back. It was confusing. He beat the odds EVERY damn time. The hardest part was accepting that this just wouldn’t be the case this time.  

I wasn’t sure how our family would move forward but we did and we do every day, but never without a little piece of him. I can always feel him with me.

Although this was a profound time in my life, a learning experience even and one that stays with me every day, reminding me to be so thankful for the rest of my healthy family, I would be missing a huge chunk of this post without mentioning my mom too.

My mom has Multiple Sclerosis (MS). She has had it for almost 28 years. About seven years ago she became wheel chair bound. She has really hard days, I know… and I push her way more than I should, but my mom really enjoys her life and is such a happy person. It is no wonder she is my grandpa’s daughter. They have something in their blood that makes them the best fighters around. I can only hope I inherited a little bit of that.

I don’t think I have ever told my mom this, but every day that I run, a little piece of me runs for her.  I know more than anything she wishes she could walk and run again but she can’t. The anger she could have because of this never shows. She worries more about me being in pain from a winter cold than she does about her legs hurting or her neck aching. She is certainly the most remarkable person I know.

This post is not meant to be a sad story. Please do not feel bad for me or my family or think I am asking for any ounce of sympathy. I just wanted to share the two sources of inspiration in my life that remind me to be strong and thankful.

At the end of the day it really is ONLY about having our health and those we love by our side. Sure having a house and clothes and a working car to drive to your job is great. 

But when you are reflecting on what to be thankful for this last week before Thanksgiving, take a moment to really reflect on the fact that your arms and legs work. 

That your heart beats strong and your lungs fill with air easily. 

That you can talk & sing & laugh. 

Squeeze everyone you see this holiday season a little tighter and take that extra second to Skype or Face Time your loved ones who are far away. Take advantage of your health. Use it to its fullest potential. Make yourself tired doing all the things you can because you can :)

The more you Thank life, the more Life gives you to be Thankful for!

Sorry for getting deep with y'all. I just had this post in me today and I am starting to learn you just have to go with what your fingers type. Back to talking about the lighter stuff tomorrow like Pinterest and guacamole :) 


  1. Thank you for sharing this!! Sounds like a remarkably man!!!!

  2. I lost my Grandpa two years ago and he was the same way. Diabetes, multiple heart surgeries, broken bones that turned into a huge infection, he handled it all with ease. Still cannot believe he's gone but losing someone like that makes you love the ones who are still in your life even more!