Another Thanksgiving

Every year when the time changes and the days get shorter and the nights longer, I start to feel it.   By the time that the halls are decked with boughs of holly, now shortly before Thanksgiving, the season of airport delays, of frantic last minute shopping, of eating and drinking too much and then doing it again has begun, and with it, for many, the season of sadness.  At a time when festivities and noise are ramping up in the outside world, the Cancer Center becomes curiously still and quiet.

No one wants to get chemotherapy and radiation for Christmas.  It is far easier to ignore that lump or bump or missed mammogram than it is to schedule one more thing—a doctor’s appointment—when there are trips to take, family to visit and cookies to bake. And for those who have been recently diagnosed, it is rare that the treatment can’t wait a few weeks, just until “after the holidays.”  Although the “C” word strikes terror into our hearts, most of the time cancer truly is not an emergency.  This time of year, lunch breaks actually appear on my schedule, and the therapists cheerfully ring me up promptly at five to check the localization films for the day.

It isn’t hard to squeeze a new patient in this time of year, but when I get asked to do so, there is a very good chance that that patient is a little bit sicker, a little bit more symptomatic, a little bit more urgent and oftentimes a little bit younger than the average patient that I see though out the rest of the year.  Especially if that patient is hospitalized. Every year, there is someone—a husband, a wife, a child, a brother—who won’t be home for the holidays.

And so tomorrow, when you raise your glass around the Thanksgiving table, and give thanks for all of the blessings you have, do not forget to give thanks for your good health and that of your family, if you are lucky enough to have it.  And send out a prayer, or a positive thought, or an email or card to those who have not been so lucky.   It will mean the world to them.   Nobody wants cancer for Christmas.


  1. I just took a break from prepping stuff for tomorrow (I needed to sit down for a few minutes.) Saw your note and decided to read. Now I sit here with tears, sad and yet not sad. This time of year, a time of celebration, stressful and joyous, is also a time that many of us have lost family, friends, and non-human friends. I do send out my very best wishes to all, and am thankful that this year I am feeling much better than I did this time last year. I am also so much more appreciative of every hour of every day.

    Happy Thanksgiving everyone. And the very best for the holiday season.

  2. Thank you, Dr. Fielding, for lighting this candle so well.. It’s so much better than cursing the darkness. Our prayers, positive thoughts, and now emails–you have them all!

  3. A very poignant reminder of the true cycle of life. Tomorrow at my extended family’s Thanksgiving table, we’ll think of one family member who was there last year, but very ill. He died five weeks later on New Year’s Day. Another guest last year, a friend of the family, was also ill, and diagnosed shortly afterward with ALS. So yes, Miranda. It’s a time of endings. But also beginnings: there’s a new baby this year, too. So may it be joy and sorrow both, twined around each other with love. And thank you for this place where we can meet.

  4. Thanks for the reminder of pausing to be thankful for the really important things. I know there are fresh holes in your heart this holiday season and I hope you find joy in having your dad close. A toast to those we have loved and lost.

  5. A lovely, poignant reminder to appreciate that we are here to enjoy another Thanksgiving holiday with friends and family. You’re the best!

  6. Thank you for the beautiful reminder that we must always count our blessings & appreciate those who are in our lives today. There is a Sanskrit Proverb :
    Look to this day, for it is life.
    the very life of life.
    In its brief course lie all the realities
    and verities of existence,
    The bliss of growth,
    The splendor of action
    The glory of power –
    For yesterday is but a dream
    And tomorrow is only a vision,
    But today, well-lived,
    Makes every yesterday a dream of happiness
    And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
    Look well, therefore, to this day.

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