Leaning Into Gratitude To Cope With A Loved One’s Cancer

Russ Terry

Russ Terry

The C word.  Cancer.  No one wants to hear it, especially from an immediate family member.  A few weeks ago, my Mom phoned with startling news:  her annual mammogram had turned up something “highly suspicious for malignancy.” I was stunned, shaken, sad, upset, scared.  You name it and I felt it – such a range of emotions.  I’m not going to lie or sugar coat it.  It’s been a rough few weeks.

On the positive side, however, there’s so much I have been grateful for in this situation.  Oh, let me count the ways:

1.       I’m grateful that she’s gotten her mammogram every year for 30 years and does a self-exam on the first of every month.  (Great advice for all women!)  Even if it did turn out to be cancer, I was optimistic that it was caught early and hopeful that this time next year we could not only go on the vacation to Italy that we’ve been planning, but could use the occasion to celebrate life, health, how much we love each other, and our Italian heritage, of which we’re very proud!

2.       I’m grateful for an incredibly wise and supportive group of colleagues.  Right before this all happened, I came to know not one or two but THREE people who would prove immensely helpful.  Two are breast cancer survivors and one is an expert on grief.  It’s like God planted them in my life to make sure I was OK.  Wow.

3.       My friends have been excellent.  I’m so grateful for their support, prayers, positive thinking and encouragement.  Thinking about them makes me smile.  So many have passed on good wishes to me, which I have forwarded to my Mom.  She is grateful, too, which makes me even happier to have all of them – and her – in my life.

4.       I’m so glad I have a job that’s flexible and enabled me to be by her side for her pre-lumpectomy consultation with her surgeon.  I’m grateful for the doctor and his calmness, and that my Mom, my sister and my Mom’s significant other could all be there with her.  We even went out to eat afterward, which we otherwise would never have done on a random Wednesday in early August.  It was lovely!

5.       Finally, I’m grateful that we got some very good news within the last few days.  Although Mom does have breast cancer, it has not spread. The surgeon said that he’ll likely be able to get everything out when he does the lumpectomy (on September 11th, please keep us in your prayers), and that she won’t need chemotherapy.  Phew!  What a relief.

When I shared the good news with people who are grappling with more difficult cancer experiences, I felt so guilty.  But they were incredibly happy for me.  I’m grateful
for their generous spirits.

You may get good news.  You may not.  Either way, you can always find something to be grateful for, even in tough situations — and now I know ESPECIALLY in tough situations.

Interesting postscript: I sent this to my Mom for her review before submitting it.  I wanted to make sure she was OK with it.  Here’s what she said: “Even if the diagnosis had been the type that needed chemo and radiation I would still be positive because more and more people are surviving cancer.” So inspiring, right??


For information on Russ, visit his website www.russterrylifecoach.com.

Russ Terry and Grief Coach, Jill Smolowe, are co-hosting an in-person workshop, “The Grief-Gratitude Connection,” to be held in New York City on September 15.  For more info and to purchase tickets, visit: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-grief-gratitude-connection-strategies-for-easing-the-stress-of-caregiving-and-the-pain-of-loss-tickets-9972777847