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November 29, 2013 8:30 am

Easy to find reasons to be thankful

Written by Don Amend

It’s Thanksgiving time again.

OK, that’s not really true, at least the way I was brought up. In that world, you’re supposed to rejoice in the Lord always, not just on special occasions, and in my day-to-day life, I’ve found that attitude to be very beneficial.

Still, there are some days when it’s pretty hard to rejoice, so it’s a good thing to set a special day for that purpose, at least old Honest Abe Lincoln thought so. That’s why he declared a national day of Thanksgiving right in the middle of the Civil War, a year when people were digesting the violent loss of life in places like Chancellorsville, Vicksburg, Chickamauga and Gettysburg.  He thought the people needed a day to think about stuff they could be thankful for in the face of all that, and he was no doubt correct.

Well, I’m sort of in the same mode this year. In fact, this is the third straight Thanksgiving when I have really felt the need to dwell on my blessings rather than my troubles. Two years ago, I was mourning the loss of a brother at Thanksgiving. Last year I was between surgeries, one to deal with a life-changing medical emergency and a second to mitigate the effects of that emergency.

Well, I made it through that surgery this year, but in the aftermath I got some more news: I have multiple myeloma, a cancer involving my bone marrow. Such a diagnosis doesn’t often lead a person to stand up and cheer.

But life is still good, and I have an awful lot to be thankful for. My most recent surgery went as well as could be expected. In fact, the surgeon who performed the operation was so pleased with the result that he made a PowerPoint presentation to show to other surgeons. Most importantly, despite a high risk of paralysis involved in the operation, I still have full use of my fingers and toes and I can still rise and walk, although I’d have trouble obeying Jesus’ instructions to take up my bed.

Then there’s my swallower, which, as I indicated few columns back, had taken a break from swallowing. It has continued its comeback, making it possible for me to take full advantage this week of a gooseberry pie produced by my resident nurse, cook, laundress and all-around handyman, or should I say, handylady. As always, I am thankful that I found a farmer’s daughter to marry.

As for the cancer, three months into chemotherapy, side effects have been minimal, and so far, I seem to be improving. I am thankful for that, and even more thankful that I only have to travel to Cody for the treatment.

Over the course of this past year, hundreds of people have been there when I needed them. I’ll never forget Melvin, a tall, congenial nurse’s aide from Kenya, and a nurse named Beverly for what they did for me one day. I was only recently out of surgery and not feeling very chipper. My hair hadn’t been cut for several months and it had been about a week since it had been washed, so I looked rather frightful. Beverly proposed to wash it, but I really didn’t feel like having it done.

Well, between Melvin, who kept teasing me about my hair and told me I looked like Steven Spielberg, and Beverly, who insisted of doing her duty, my hair got washed, and it did make me feel better. Even more important, the two of them, with a little help from my wife, made me laugh at a time when I really needed a laugh.

The upbeat approach of the staff at the Big Horn Cancer Center has also been good for me. Reporting for treatment that you know is going to be unpleasant, especially on Monday morning, is hard, but the cheery atmosphere at the center helps me approach the experience with a positive attitude, and it really helps me get through the morning.

Lots of people have touched me by expressing support and concern for me this year. I’ve heard from high school classmates I haven’t seen in 50 years along with many former colleagues and new friends. It has been gratifying to receive their best wishes and I welcome their prayers, which I’m sure are helping me.

Finally, and not surprisingly, I have to mention four young souls who visited their grandpa last summer. Two of them visited me in the hospital and I was touched by their tender concern for me, concern that continued when I was released from the hospital and spent a few days in their home.

That tender treatment was doubled when all four came to visit last summer, and it was boosted further by the laughter they brought with them and the fun they had together. It was great medicine for my spirit and raised my determination to get better so I can play with them the next time they come.

Adding all those blessings up, I have to say I’ve had a good year. I certainly remembered them on Thursday, but I won’t give thanks on only one day. God has been awful good to me, and there are too many blessings to fit into one day.

Enjoy your turkey, and don’t forget to be thankful.

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