Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work

NOVEMBER 23, 2017

Other years I have written early in the day on Thanksgiving. Today it is 9:30 PM, and our guests are gone--except for  my daughter and her family who are visiting from MN. It has been a lovely day, a perfect late fall NE weather day, and I am remembering holidays past. The first time that I cooked Thanksgiving dinner was in Munich, Germany. I was very young, just married, and had spent days thinking about the meal. My husband invited several single friends to dinner, and when we sat down, John, from Alabama, said: "Where is the rice?" I had never heard of rice being necessary for Thanksgiving, and I learned then the importance of asking guests if there is something unexpected and important for them. As I type this, I am also thinking (and horrified that it took decades to think this) how rude it was of him to say anything.

My 8 yo granddaughter started the familiar "what are you thankful for?" conversation at dinner. The responses were heartfelt and not surprising, focusing on family and friends and the feast before us I responded similarly with the additional comment that I never expected to be alive for Thanksgiving 2017 (having first had breast cancer in 1993), and that I was grateful for the people around the table and all who came before us.

What I did not say and what I want to say here is how very, very grateful I am for the work I have been blessed to do and the women whom I have known and loved. This has been an especially difficult few weeks with three deaths:Toni-Lee, Dietlinde, and Joan. All were remarkable wonderful strong women who lived terrific, too short live. I am remembering them and ll of the others whom I have known and loved through the years. I am often asked, and sometimes think, about all of this pain and how do I stand it.

Those of you who live, with me, like me, in Cancer World, know this risk and know that there is inevitable grief. I have always, and continue to, believe that the  blessing is greater than the pain. Would I have preferred not to know Toni-Lee or Dietlinde or Joan? Absolutely not. My life has been immeasurably enriched by them and by so many others whom I have known and loved and lost.

This evening, I am most grateful for all of these brave and wonderful women who have shown us the way forward.  

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