Five years ago today, I was driving to Mass General Hospital with my parents. This plan had been in the works for over a month. I was going to have a full thyroidectomy whereby my superman, Dr. Richard Hodin, would remove any cancerous lymph nodes that he found upon opening me up. I still remember sitting in the back seat and hugging a pillow while having some deep talks with the Universe.
While I would never wish cancer to enter any of your households – never, ever, ever
– my own personal experiences with it wound up teaching me one of the most valuable life lessons to be had. As we all know, crucial life lessons, or as my dad likes to call them, takeaways, tend to elevate our experience on this planet, maybe even carry us through the darkest of times.
This particular takeaway changed my life forever.
I GOT GRATEFUL, FAST.
I became grateful for my blunt and strong as hell sister, who picked me up off my bathroom floor after I was told over the phone that I may have lymphoma. Meg’s response, “So what? You’ll beat it.” She then handed me my daughter, Emerson, who was only two and a half at the time.
“She’s your reason,” she said, not mincing words as she referred to my baby girl. “Now get up.”
Thank you for giving me strength, Meagan.
I became grateful to my father who somehow rallied the competitor inside of me. During our lymphoma scare, my parents never once left my side. On a two mile drive from Gee Ave to Granite Street, my dad said, “Lu, this is just one more big game. And all you have to do is score more than 30 points. You’ve done it before, you just need to do it again.”
Thank you for bringing out the champion in me, Dad.
I became even more grateful for my mother, the woman I caught crying in my kitchen, telling my father, “Timmy, why Lori? I just wish it was me.”
And that, my friends, was the turning point.
I had awoken. Gratitude felt like it had literally just washed over me. I knew then that I belonged to a Universe that blessed me with a mother who would fully embrace such overwhelming love and sacrifice. What more could I ask for?
From that moment on, I vowed to no longer feel sorry for myself. I didn’t want my Saint Nance to experience any pain. Not her.
Not my mom.
Thank you for raising me right, lady.
Shortly after that kitchen moment, thanks to my mother and the efforts of our family friends, Kate and Jack Andrews, I was connected to an elite doctor at Mass General. Through him, I received a diagnosis of papillary thyroid cancer. In short, this diagnosis was a long way off from lymphoma. I was told by my doctor that, on the wheel of cancer, I just received the best diagnosis possible. Due to my exhibiting symptoms, my medical team believed that I had been living with this for about ten years. I used this to explain EVERY bad choice I had made during this time.
Thank you, humor.
Fast forward to February 27, 2014. My surgery was scheduled for three hours. Clearly, when it lasted an hour beyond that scheduled time, my people started to get nervous. That is until Superman himself, Dr. Hodin, entered the waiting room to let my family know that the surgery was complete. It had taken longer than he expected because he had to remove 31 cancerous lymph nodes surrounding my thyroid. 31…
Remember how many points I needed to score in this particular game?
Thank you, Universe, for having my back.
Since my surgery, I have started every single one of my days by expressing gratitude. Parts of my life, such as Brandon and our children, my nephews, my career, my home, my oceanside community, and my entire tribe of family and friends, only begin to tap into the infinite depth of possible things to be grateful for. And the more I am able to honor and express this gratitude, the more things I find myself having the opportunity to feel grateful for.
I have never gone public with this personal story. Until now. Why? Because of all of you. Because we are not alone. None of us. And each of us has a story to share and be heard…
A story to be grateful for.
Thank you, everyone, for listening.
Lori Sanborn was born in Gloucester and returned to live permanently in our seaside community six years ago. She has been a public educator for 12 years and is currently the Assistant Principal of Swampscott Middle School. Lori is most proud of her role as mother to her children, Emerson and Ryder.