This year’s Thanksgiving is a bit different for me than any other year. It is Zach’s first Thanksgiving, and we are more thankful than ever for this time to celebrate. I feel like it would be so easy to focus on why I shouldn’t be thankful, so I wanted to share 15 reasons we are thanking God this year as a result of events that have occurred in the past two and a half months.
1. Thankful for health. I know this is something we typically are thankful for but knowing that 9 weeks ago Zach had something in him that was hurting him makes me thankful that he is now a healthy baby boy. As a mom, you try to make sure you keep your child healthy by feeding him right and making sure he is active. It is hard to accept that you cannot keep them from something like cancer. God had a plan to make Zach healthy. Now, I do not take for granted Zach’s, Andrew’s, and my health. I am even more proactive about us checking our health now.
2. Thankful for a God who knows all and sees all. To say we were surprised when we were told Zach probably had retinoblastoma on September 23 is an understatement. When he was officially diagnosed two days later, we wondered how we could have known sooner. One thing that I have found comfort in and have realized recently is that even when we are taken by surprise, our God is not. He knew that Zach would have this sickness in him, and He knew what would happen after we found it. He knows what will happen tomorrow and the day after that. What a comfort it is to know that even when we are shaken to our core, our God is not. He knows, He cares, and He is there to hold us during the surprising times.
3. Thankful for the body of Christ. While Zach was sick, I saw the Church gather together to support and pray for Zach. The Church gathered around this country and world to lift Zach up in prayer. God definitely heard Zach’s name a time or ten thousand that week. It was such an encouragement and blessing to us. Even when we did not know what to pray, we had fellow brothers and sisters in Christ doing it for us.
4. Thankful for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. When we were told what Dr. Peterson saw in Zach’s eye, he said we could see the best doctor in Memphis or go to another hospital he suggested. We had no idea when we said we wanted the best that that would send us to St. Jude, but thank God that it did! St. Jude is an amazing place full of amazing people. They take care of their patients with the best care I could ever imagine, yet they do not charge anyone a penny. It does not stop there, though. They are continually doing research to try and find a cure as well as a way to stop childhood cancer. I believe Zach is now a part of 4 different research studies but at no point did he have to do this.
5. Thankful for people that give. I am thankful that people give to St. Jude. People give of their time and resources at St. Jude. If it was not for people giving, we would not be able to go there and receive the care we do. I am more thankful than ever for people who are willing to give.
6. Thankful for other retinoblastoma families. While I wish I could have met these families under different circumstances for them and us, I have met some amazing kids and parents. It is a comfort to know there are other families who are going and have gone through the same thing. I have met some new friends that have been there for me and helped me when I did not know what was going on with Zach. They tell me when to worry and when not to. It is such a blessing!
7. Thankful for medicine. I know medicine can get a bad wrap, but I also know that I have seen medicine (properly used, of course) save my child’s life. The medical advances they have made is making it possible for doctors to target more specifically treatments that will not harm people’s bodies as much. Medicine has been able to ease Zach’s pain while he was healing. I guess it seems silly to be thankful for this, but it is the little things in life that turn out to be big things sometimes.
8. Thankful for technology. Technology made it possible for us to see all the support we had back home while we were away. We received post after post and message after message of love, prayers, and encouragement. It would make us smile and cry, but it was great to know how much we were loved during this trial.
9. Thankful for family. This is kind of an obvious one, but Zach, Andrew, and I have been blessed with amazing family. They drop everything when we need them. They love us more than we could ever ask and take care of us. I feel like God spoiled me when He gave me my family, and for this, I am so thankful!!
10. Thankful for God’s timing. I have always known and believed that God’s timing is best. I do not know that I have ever experienced how amazing his timing is, though, until Zach’s retinoblastoma was found. Zach went to his 6 month check up at 5 months, which led us to discover a lazy eye. The eye specialist we were sent to diagnosed him with something that he wanted another eye doctor to look at 2 months later. When we went 2 months later, the “new” eye doctor discovered Zach’s tumor. At almost 8 months old, Zach had his eye removed. We new at the advanced stage his retinoblastoma was that he had a 50% chance of needing chemo. He did not need chemo! All of this to say that we had nearly 8 months of amazing ignorant bliss, but we found it in time to keep from spreading to where he would need chemotherapy. God’s hand was in the timing of this the whole way through. Praise His Holy name!!!
11. Thankful for opportunities. Zach’s diagnosis with retinoblastoma was bad, but the opportunities that have come from it have been a blessing. I feel like I have a bigger platform than ever to spread Jesus’ name. When people share their tough times with me now, I can confidently tell them that Jesus is more than enough to get them through. I am thankful that even though Zach’s diagnosis was and still is scary, God is using him and us for his glory. Sometimes that takes me out of my comfort zone, but it is in that time that God grows me.
12. YOLO. I know, I know you only live once. However, Zach’s retinoblastoma made me realize this in a totally new way. Every minute counts. You only live once, so are you spending that time doing the things that matter? I have been busy studying for the CPA exam, cleaning, cooking, and doing other things moms do. However, I had to reevaluate after Zach’s surgery if I was giving him all the time, attention, and love that I could. I was afraid that maybe I was missing out by having my priorities off. Don’t get me wrong, those things still have to be done. However, I feel like I appreciate every moment I get now. I am thankful that Zach is almost 10 months old now and is growing and learning every day. I am thankful that You Only Live Once, so I can make sure that I am spending my time on things that matter.
13. Thankful for my husband. I am thankful for a husband that picks up the slack when I cannot. While Zach was at St. Jude, he took care of listening to instructions and packing the diaper bag, so all I had to do was love and care for my baby boy. He was stronger than I could have ever asked for. He is an amazing daddy and even more amazing husband.
14. Thankful for doctors. I have always had a huge respect for people in the medical field, doctors in particular. I feel like I now have even more respect for doctors. We found Zach’s retinoblastoma because Zach’s pediatrician noticed a lazy eye. It was only found because he took his time with Zach and truly cares about him. The doctors at St. Jude treat Zach as his own and help us decide what the best steps to take for Zach is by thinking about what they would do if it was their kids. I know that doctors see and deal with a lot. I don’t know that I could do it, so I am thankful for the doctors who see the things they do but still care about their patients. While I know they make good money, I also know that this job comes at cost. They sacrifice time with their family, go through years of education, and deal with more than we could ever imagine. Thank God for the men and women who knows the sacrifices but do it anyways!
15. Thankful for a Savior. Sometimes, I just need hope, don’t you? My hope is in Jesus Christ my Savior. I have heard people say that I just need Jesus to be real, and I will agree with that 100%. I need Jesus to be real because without Him, I am hopeless. Just because I need Jesus to be real, though, does not make it any less real. During Zach’s first week at St. Jude, I needed hope. I needed Jesus, and praise God, I had it. I have never been more thankful that my God sent His Son to die on the cross for me and take my place, so that I can have the assurance of being with God in Heaven. Yes, I needed to know that that week. I needed to know that regardless of whatever happened to Zach, I had a Savior I could cling to. I needed to know that my Heavenly Father loved Zach and me and had not left me. I needed to know that, and I have never been more sure that it is true. I would have never been able to walk the road I walked, make the decisions I did, or deal with life after the way I have without the help of my Father.