First off, I want to thank everyone for all the support and caring you offered me last week when I wrote about my “meltdown.”

Over the months I’ve been writing this column, it no longer amazes me when people are kind or supportive about something I write. You have been wonderful about that. But, the compassion that poured down on Sheri and me last week was even more humbling than usual. Seriously.

In fact, you have been so generous that I don’t feel comfortable being a curmudgeon any more. If you are going to be so nice to someone you don’t know except through the written word, how the heck am I going to be all, “You don’t really care. You’re just saying that.” Or, “Yeah? Well, life sucks, and then you die.” I can’t. I’ve tried. You’ve taken all the fun out of being curmudgeonly.

OK, now on to a medical update: My most recent test showed that my gall bladder function is normal. That was actually disappointing, because I figured a malfunctioning gall bladder would be the solution to what is going on with my stomach. Then, we’d smash that gall bladder, or whatever they do to them nowadays, and let me visit the land of pain-free for the first time in more than 14 months.

Besides, Thanksgiving is coming up, and that would be a great thing to be thankful for. As we all know, my knowledge of anatomy and physiology is sketchy at the very best, but it seems to me that if my gall bladder is gone, not only would I have an appetite again, but I would be able to cram in more food with all the extra room.

Even though the test was negative, my palliative care doctor is convinced that there is something wrong with my gall bladder, so I’m scheduled to see the gastroenterologist on Dec. 1. True, that’s too late for Thanksgiving, but I’m sure I can scrape up something else for which to be grateful.

Did you see what I did there? Huh? Threw you a little curve ball. Didn’t I? I intimated that without the obvious good news of my gall bladder being removed, I was going to have a hard time “scraping up” something to be thankful for. It was a ruse. A ploy, if you will, to get you emotionally involved in what came next. I’m sure they have a name for that sort of ploy in writers’ school, but I never went to writers’ school, so I couldn’t tell you.

Ruse notwithstanding, I have a tremendous amount of gratitude for the current state of my life.

Last year at this time I had no idea what my cancer was up to. Was it active, thinking about remission, going into remission, or “other”?

But there were things I did know, and that I was grateful for. The love of my wife and my family and how much support they extended to me. I had friends to help, but at this time last year I had no idea how many nor how connected they were to me and my recovery.

Last Thanksgiving, I was facing tremendous unknowns about my stem cell transplant. The general things I knew about it were both encouraging and daunting. I knew it would help beat back my cancer, but I also knew it meant spending days in isolation and a long period of recovery.

It meant spending a lot of time in Boston, and we had no idea where Sheri was going to live while I was in the hospital. On top of that expense, we had to consider the cost of parking and meals, and this was all on top of the medical care I need.

Last year, we believed it would all be OK, and that we would manage just fine. This year, we can give thanks for all that was done for us. Friends gave us a place to stay, rent free. We were able to get assistance with the parking, which would have cost us hundreds of dollars otherwise. We even were helped with the cost of gas traveling back and forth between home and the hospital.

The stem cell transplant went like a dream and was so successful that I was released a day early, the projected at-home recovery time was seriously shortened and I was able to re-start my life much sooner.

Last year, Thanksgiving was all about hope and trust. This year, it’s about saying thank you for how well things have turned out.

This year, for the first time in 30 years, one of my daughters, her husband and three sons will be spending the holiday with us, which will make Jim and Sheri happy. Maybe I should say happier, since we’re pretty grateful for what we’ve been given every day of our lives. We hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and, if I may quote Warren Zevon again, “Just let us be brave, and make us play nice.”

Jim Arnold is a former copy editor for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. To read more about his journey through cancer, visit his blog, findingthepony.blogspot.com.


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