This Thanksgiving arrives at a time when our country is in more than a little turmoil over the economy and divisive social issues. Families will gather on Thursday to celebrate one of America’s most cherished holidays. Whether you celebrate the season for Black Friday sales or for more traditional patriotic and spiritual reasons this may be a year when it’s a little more difficult to find something for which you’ll offer thanks.
Personally, with all the problems in the world, to say nothing of the challenges my fellow actors and I are facing in the watershed issues involved in our current contract stalemate, I’m ready for some GOOD NEWS. It’s time to focus on something that means even more to me than my career. What to do?
For my part, I’m reminded of a piece I wrote in this blog back in 2005. Look for the update at the end of this post entitled, I’m Thankful for…High School Football ?????? which was originally published 11/24/2005:
It’s Turkey Day tomorrow. Every year our family has a big Thanksgiving day get-together … usually 30-50, some years it’s more. It’s always a good time. Over the last two years, these family get-togethers have taken on added importance. This will be our 3rd Thanksgiving since Jane, my wife, was diagnosed with cancer. She was diagnosed a week before Thanksgiving, 2003.
What were we thankful for THAT year? Lots of things.
For faith in God. The knowledge and comfort that comes from knowing that there are already literally thousands of people, from coast to coast, praying for Jane’s recovery.
For Assurance. Assurance that whatever the course of her life in this world, her spiritual life is in order.
For good doctors. We were fortunate with Jane’s diagnosis. She has a kind of cancer that is often misdiagnosed…or has been in the past…because it just looks like a skin rash. A mammogram will often not detect IBC (Inflammatory Breast Cancer) because there are often no tumors present. Her doctors recognized the signs right away and she was in treatment within days.
For loving family. How do people make it through catastrophic events without the support of moms, dads, brothers and sisters? That’s rough. We were thankful that first Thanksgiving that we have a great family.
And yes, we were thankful for football. High school football in particular. You see, my wife comes parents (mom, Billie and her late father, Tom) who were high school football fanatics. Especially her mother. They’ve been going to high school football games for literally decades, even when they no longer had kids in school. It’s the FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS thing that is a reality in our family.
We support the Connally Cougars, a high school team from Pflugerville, Texas. Our son graduated from Connally almost 3 years ago and still, we are there in the stands every Friday night to watch football in what may be its purest form.
How is this relevant to Thanksgiving or to Jane’s recovery? Well…during treatment at the end of 2003 and through 2004, Jane set some ‘goals’ for herself. One goal, during her chemo, was to get to work as often as possible. She had chemo every two weeks. The week she had the chemo treatments got pretty hard on her, with her reaction to the drugs getting progressively worse as the week wore on.
By Friday of that week, she would, begin to turn the corner, feeling ever so slightly better. By Saturday, she was sitting up in bed. Sunday she could move about some without showing the pain in her eyes. And somehow, on Monday morning of the week after chemo, she was out of bed and off to work. That goal was part of what kept her going through the chemo. (She’s one of those crazy people who likes her job.)
Following the chemo there was surgery and then radiation treatment. Besides getting well enough to work, another goal was to get well enough to attend Connally’s games once the season started.
By the time the next football season rolled around, Jane had completed her treatment. Her body was pretty badly battered; her once long hair which had fallen out during chemo had been replaced by a really cute ‘short do’. She was often exhausted as the regimen that had rendered her cancer free had taken a toll on her body. But, thank God, she was cancer free.
One of the real ‘treats’ for her since becoming cancer free has been to resume her status as a loyal Connally Cougar fan. Last season Connally surprised the Texas football world by making it all the way to the State semi-final game. The team started off the season 0-3, then ripped off 10 straight wins to get to within one game of the State Championship. They played a highly favored team from Kilgore and lost a hard fought battle 10-7.
That brings us to this Thanksgiving. Jane is still cancer free. And we are thankful for that.
She is still undergoing treatment, as IBC has a nasty habit of returning. Jane is monitored closely by her oncologist and takes regular infusions of Herceptin, a drug with a lot of potential as a cancer beater in certain patients. And she is still a Connally Cougar football fan.
This Saturday Jane, Billie and I will board the fan bus and be in the stands in San Antonio when the Cougars – especially seniors QB Steven Sheffield, MLB Nathan Mann, WR Antwon Williams, WR Brandon Williams, RB Nigel Lott, RB Patrick Morris – take on Flour Bluff in the Quarterfinal game for this year’s state championship. Win or lose, the Cougars (11-1) have enjoyed another great season. The qualities of faith, faithfulness, tenacity, courage, heart and strength of character that we’ve seen exhibited in the young men of the Connally football team are the same qualities I’ve observed for 33 years in my wife, Jane….but nevermore so than in the time since November, 2003 when we heard a doctor say those words you don’t want to hear – “you have cancer”.
I am thankful for this team and for all the smiles I’ve seen them put on the face of the toughest, most courageous person I’ve ever known.
Good luck Cougars. C Ready.
It’s been three years since that original post. So, what has happened?
As I write this Jane is in good health and remains cancer free. The truth is that IBC, her ‘brand’ of cancer, is not curable. But the landscape has changed greatly since she was first diagnosed. Truthfully, when Jane was first diagnosed, the existing data didn’t give us much reason to hope. Given that IBC is more often now correctly diagnosed, that there have been improvements in treatment regimens and medicines, the outlook is much more positive now than it was five years ago.
At her most recent checkup, Jane’s oncologist suggested she consider having her ‘port’ removed. She no longer needs it for medication and it presents some risk of infection. So…we’ve come a LONG way.
This Thanksgiving, like all those since 2003, I have something to truly be thankful for. Something that is bigger than SAG and the AMPTP, bigger than my career or lack thereof. I’m thankful to God that this journey with my sweet wife is ongoing.
And what about the Cougars?
The Connally Cougars prevailed in their contest vs Flour Bluff in a hard fought contest that cost Connally three of its starting players due to injury. Connally went on to play in their second straight State Semi-Final contest. The loss of their starting wide receiver, fullback and middle linebacker to injuries in the Flour Bluff game cost Connally ultimately was too much for the Cougars to overcome. They fought hard but lost. A downer end to a GREAT season. And we were there. More importantly, Jane was there.
The past two seasons have not been as kind to the Cougars who have struggled to rebuild with a new coach and new players. But we’ve been able to continue our support for the team by making their games our own personal FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS tradition.
I hope anyone reading this can find something they, too can be thankful for.