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Tuesday, November 21, 2023

"Count yourself lucky"

My husband reminded me today to count myself lucky. Despite all that I've gone through this fall, my health situation is not in the least dire.

Let me explain my husband's perspective. If you've read my about me page, you know that my husband's career has been in grants and contracts. What I don't specifically mention is the area of research for which these grants apply. My husband's work has almost exclusively concerned cancer research.

He works from home 3 days per week, using our landline as his home "office" phone. For the most part, our friends and family no longer call on this line, but reach us by cell phones instead. On the days my husband is home, I only answer this phone for him when he's outside or I know he's in a meeting. On the 2 days he goes in to the downtown office, I do answer the phone, taking messages and trying to be a kind voice for the caller.

One of the cancer research projects he's currently working on is for the vaccine for breast cancer. We get a lot of women (or their spouses) phoning, trying to get help applying for a clinical trial. Today, a woman called who was having trouble with the online application and wanted a live voice to help her. My husband was in the commute home from the downtown office at this time. So I took her name and number and also told her to call back tomorrow. My husband also said he would give her a call and see if he could help her.

Many times, these women have tried absolutely everything else for their cancer with limited help and are desperate to try something, anything. My husband knows that not all of the women who want to try the clinical trial will be approved for it. I have some experience with this scenario. When my mother had exhausted all of the approved treatments for her own breast cancer, she was guided into a clinical trial. In the first phase of the trial, the only qualification for remaining in the trial for the second phase was to have the cancer not progress. My mom's cancer remained stable at that point, so she stayed on for phase two. To stay on for the third phase of the trial, the cancer had to diminish in phase two. My mom's cancer hadn't shrunk or diminished at all, it had only remained stable. She was let go from the clinical trial at that point. I remember how heartbreaking this was for our family. In our minds, if a cancer isn't actively growing, they should have allowed her to stay in the trial. But that's not how these trials tend to work.

So when these women phone and ask my husband for his help in applying or finding a clinical trial, my husband tries to do whatever he can, even though this is not really his primary role. His name and number just happens to pop up on the university cancer research site.

When I discussed today's phone call with my husband, explaining my note, I detected a note of sadness in my husband's voice as he retreated from the kitchen. As he left the room, he simply said to me "count yourself lucky."

My husband is right. I am "lucky". I not only have this Thanksgiving to enjoy with my family, but likely a couple dozen or more Thanksgivings with them.

I thought as Thanksgiving 2023 is just 2 days away, this would be an appropriate story to share with you friends. I actually had something else in mind, but this is what came up and seemed right. For those of you who are leaving Wednesday to join family and friends, have a lovely Thanksgiving. If anyone else is around tomorrow afternoon, I'll post what I had previously had in mind for today. 

Wishing all of you a happy Thanksgiving!


  1. Your husband's job sounds emotionally exhausting. I would imagine that burnout is common with anyone who works in the cancer field. Thanks for the reminder to count myself lucky. We all have family and friends who have lost their lives to cancer and know how devastating it is for all involved. So today while I'm running around trying to get everything ready for a big Thanksgiving crown, I will remember to count my blessings.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      I know. Working in this particular field has its ups and downs. On the positive side, the researchers are finding new ways to treat cancer. On the negative side, many patients won't be able to benefit from some of these treatments.

  2. I am thankful for the opportunity to send my aunt a Christmas card. She has had breast cancer 2x. The second time she had to have part of her rib cage removed to remove the cancer as it had moved to her lung. She is a fighter, but in September had to be put on oxygen. It doesn't look good. We just never know when it is time. But I just sent out a card to her.

    1. Hi Amy,
      I prayed for your aunt and you in this difficult time. I'm sure she will appreciate the card very much.

  3. I think I have mentioned I have had cancer twice. The first time was barley anything and the second time 5 years later stage 3. I've had chemo, herception, radiation, and an a double mastectomy 10 years ago. I thank god for keeping me alive and able to enjoy my family and a new baby in the spring. Your poor husband sees the worse that we fear.

    1. Hi Cheryl,
      You've been through so much. I prayed for blessing for you and your family in this next year. A new baby in the family will bring so much joy!


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