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Answer Line: It's been a different sort of year, but I'm still grateful

Nov. 22, 2017 at 9:33 p.m.


Hello readers, and happy Thanksgiving. If you're an Answer Line regular, you know this is the day I take a break from answering your questions to talk about the things for which I'm thankful.

I looked back at my last Thanksgiving column and realized this has been a different kind of year for the Answer Line family. A year ago, I wrote about the death of one of our dogs, Ferrell. That was the start of a year that has been heavier than normal for my family.

It hasn't been a bad year, and I mean it when I say that. It has been filled with joy in so many ways, but still, heavy.

After Ferrell's death, we watched our other dog, Chewy, fading, as well. We were having real trouble letting our first baby go, even though his quality of life was greatly diminished.

Then came cancer.

By the time I was diagnosed with Stage I breast cancer in May, Chewy could no longer get down the stairs to our house to go outside by himself. He couldn't stand up by himself.

I'm the stay-at-home/work-at-home parent for our two-legged and four-legged children, which means I was the one picking up his almost 14-year-old, 70-pound body and helping him outside to the bathroom. I knew I would be unable to lift him after I had surgery to remove my tumor, and we finally had to say goodbye to our sweet boy. We miss him still.

That is where I'll start this year's list of the things for which I'm thankful. These are the beautiful things in life that help carry some of the weight when things get heavy. Enjoy your pecan pie today, friends, and here's my list, in no particular order:

A good veterinarian (and her staff): Our dogs were young boys when we started taking them to Dr. Susan Little and her Little Animal Hospital. She and her staff understood Ferrell's crankiness, and they faithfully fed Chewy's treat habit for years.

She and her employees loved Chewy through all sorts of weird health issues — allergies, a reaction to his shots, chronic bronchitis and, oh yeah, that time he swallowed a small, rubber bouncy ball. They were kind and compassionate to my family and my four-legged boys when their time here ended, and I'll be forever grateful to them.

You, readers: Y'all have overwhelmed me with your sweet cards, phone calls and emails. Your encouragement has meant so much to me.

Friends who are family: This whole cancer thing would have been a lot harder if it wasn't for the girls who became my friends some 30 years ago and who, for some reason, still claim me.

It's not just them, though. I've been fortunate to gather another group of ladies I call family on this side of life, too. I like to let them maintain their anonymity, so I won't name them, but the ladies in both groups have carried a lot of weight for me during this detour in life.

New friends: Women stick together, and I'm thankful for the women in some of the newer circles in my life. They've sent encouraging messages and shown up with food just when my family needed someone else to prepare a meal for them.

My friends at the News-Journal: My husband, Mr. Answer Line, is the managing editor at the News-Journal. We've spent most of our adult lives working for our hometown newspaper and our coworkers there have helped pick up the slack when he's faithfully taken time from work to help me when necessary the past few months.

Family: My mom shows up with a meal when I'm not expecting it and has prepared lunches for my boys during the weeks she knows I'm not feeling it. Each of my five siblings and their spouses have been loving and encouraging.

My husband has, as always, remained cool and collected, and my children cheerfully welcomed my bald head into the family. Families have good days and bad days, but I know they'll always have my back during the zombie apocalypse.

Modern medicine and the people who deliver it: I was fortunate I caught my breast cancer early. I'm even more fortunate to live in a time when medical professionals and modern medicine have a good handle on how to stop breast cancer.

I have some survivor's guilt, though, when I look around and see cancer everywhere. I'm heartbroken especially by the children I see suffering from life-threatening cancers, and I'm so thankful for the people searching for ways to prevent and cure cancer.

— Answer Line appears Thursday and Saturday. Email questions to answerline@news-journal.com, leave a message at (903) 232-7208 or write to P.O. Box 1792, Longview, TX 75606.

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