On Thanksgiving

In July I was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer.  I had major abdominal surgery and began chemotherapy, which continues today.  It’s been a long, tiring, terrible journey – and it’s not over yet.  My physical body has been opened, cut, poked, drawn, and filled with poison.  My emotions have tugged and pulled.  The illness has wrecked my preveiously ordered life.  I’m too tired to maintain a schedule of work, athletics, socability, and too worried about germs to always attend activities and church service.  The doctors keep me close with an endless schedule  blood draws, appointments, transfusions, and infusions. I am left desperately trying to keep up, working only part time, and watching the bills pile up.

I worry a lot.  About dying.  But more about living.  How will I recover?  And get on my feet again?  What things will never be the same again – and how will I grieve the losses?  How will I know how to rebuild the pieces that can be recovered?

It is from this dark place of uncertainty and loss that I write three things I am most grateful for on this Thanksgiving weekend.

1. I am thankful that I can see God.
In the midst of my exploding life (last summer), a path was cleared, and in the wreckage some things were illuminated.  I believe it was the hand of God.  I was handed the right health insurance; I was transfered to the right surgeon; I was provided the right recovery location; and I was given the right part time work.  There were no missteps or tangles around these items, they simply were – available and present.  And while the cancer still came to me and the cup was not passed over, I felt God with me in the hospital and on the journey. I heard the voice saying, “you will be OK” and “things will work” and “got to sleep; we will fix this in the morning”.  My heart has been granted peace many times.  I believe it was and is the hand of God – and I see it more clearly because it shines in the darkness.

2.  I am thankful for the goodness, kindness, and humanity of others.
The massive outpouring of goodness from other people has come to me in the darkest night.  Others have both sat with me in that darkness and lifted me out of it. It has been extrordinary.

In the hospital, I was never alone.  Every time I opened my eyes, my friends were there, committed to staying and being near.  They stayed in uncomfortable chairs and slept on uncomfortable benches.  They held my hands and unhooked me from myrid machines so I could move.  They were a constant.

And then the steady march of visits, calls, prayers, lunches, and well wishes came.  And the mountain of cards and gifts – and flowers, quilts, food, scarves, funds, chemo remidies, and chocolates.  I have been overwhelmed and humbled with the kindnesses – even from strangers.

My family, immediate and extended, have been formost in the effort, assisting me at personal cost to themselves and their families.  They simply made themselves available and cared for me.

The most incredible part is that I feel like the help is far from being expended – rather that it is close by me – like an accessible well of goodness – full and waiting.  I simply need reach out and scoop it up.

3.  I am thankful for the divine spark that I find in myself.
This time of trial has brought me a deeper appreciation for the divine spark within myself.  I feel the will to live, to go on, to push forward. I am filled with the sense that I am important and I have something beautiful to add to the world.  I feel stronger deep inside.  I have a desire to move beyond the darkness and live outside the despair – in a place of joy.   I want my spirit to shine.

For these things, I am most grateful at Thanksgiving.



Suzette lives in the Washington DC area and works as a Professional Organizer. She enjoys blogging and serving on the Exponent II Board. Her Mormon roots run deep and she loves her big Mormon family which includes 20 nieces and nephews, 6 sisters, 5 brother in laws, 2 parents - and dozens of cousins. Her favorite things about church are the great Alexandria wards, temple worship, and all things Visiting Teaching.

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17 Responses

  1. EmilyCC says:

    I have been so impressed at how you’ve handled all this, my dear friend. I think this line is particularly beautiful, “My heart has been granted peace many times. I believe it was and is the hand of God – and I see it more clearly because it shines in the darkness.”

    I hope you realize the light you are, shining in the darkness for so many.

  2. nat kelly says:

    Wow, Suzette. This is just what I needed to read today. What a difficult year for you. I am inspired at your ability to find the beauty, and your courage to share it with us.

    “Divine spark” is exactly the reminder I needed. My best wishes for your comfort and happiness.

  3. Diane says:

    Last Tuesday marked the one year anniversary of my last treatment for my bleeding disorder. I was in the hospital for Thanksgiving waiting for the chemotherapy and steroids to scramble my immune system enough to raise my platelet counts to a high enough so that I could leave the hospital with fearing bleeding out.

    But, I have never had any one with me at the hospital for any treatment ever. And yet, this does not upset me as I’m use this this. Quite frankly, I’m not sure I would know how to handle it, if someone did come see me in the hospital when I have one of these episodes

    I guess, I’m grateful that I have the kind of personality that can handle stressful situations like this on my own

    • Suzette Smith says:


      We have shared some similar hardships in health on life’s journey. And our experiences with them have been quit different. Thanks for sharing another kind of story.


  4. April says:

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful thoughts. I hope you enjoy a smooth recovery.

  5. Carol says:

    This is perhaps one of the most beautiful ly-written and poignant pieces on gratitude I have read. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  6. Tina Wells says:

    Marilyn told me we should connect, for I have just been diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s Marilyn’s third friend to be diagnosed at this time. I will undergo a double mastectomy with one step reconstruction Dec. 5th in Atlanta. I’m staying with a friend of Marilyn’s, whom I’ve never met. She’s been through the drill and is one of the Miracles I’m also seeing through my pain.
    Your Thanksgiving blog brought me to tears, scared me and yet, also reaffirmed what I have been experiencing… the beauty within the pain layered with the devastating financial hardship cancer can bring. Today I’m going to sell my jewelry because I want to have my surgery in the US (I live in Canada), where they reconstruct at time of mastectomy in one step. I simply cannot imagine waking up without breasts. I have scrambled to find credit cards and get loans from friends. A fundraiser was even thrown on my behalf.
    I will pray for you, Suzette. I will pray that you survive this, that the miracles will make this horrific experience worth it, and that your finances will take care of themselves in ways you never imagined – ways that bring joy and adventure into your future!

  7. Jeanette says:

    Suzette, thank you for this uplifting post. I was very sad to hear of your illness, and I wish you the best in your recovery.

    Jeanette McGlamery

  8. Suzette! We moved away from our ward in Alexandria almost two years ago, and just a few months ago I started following The Exponent. And here you are! I read through your past posts and I have appreciated them so much, although I’m very sorry to hear about the cancer. My physics teacher used to say, “Life sucks and then you die.” At first I was very put off by this morose statement (which he said frequently), but as life when on and as I started to have some really suck-y experiences, I came to see the value of recognizing that life is primarily hard, particularly for the majority of the planet. But in acknowledging this, I became very grateful for blessings like the ones you mentioned here, and my overall happiness increased—I guess because I had more realistic expectations about life. God bless you, particularly during this very tough time! I will read every post you write, so please, keep writing!

    • Suzette Smith says:


      Thanks for connecting. Nice to hear from you.

      Oh … the pressure … knowing you’ll be reading all my posts. 🙂 Thanks for your support.


  9. Megan Brady says:

    Leave it to beautiful Suzette to find the joy in her trials. I am inspired by your gratitude and you cause me to reflect upon my own blessings. Thank you. Your family IS a well at which you can draw from and your friends will never cease to be constant. I love and appreciate you daily.

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