So God Made a Mother Collection ➔

That’s how I spent my Thanksgiving weekend. No running around getting groceries for a big feast, no picking up my race packet for the annual turkey trot, no cooking, no seeing friends and family, no shopping, no breaking bread with those I love. None of it this year. It sounds strange, sad, maybe even a little self indulgent as if I woke up and decided to just not participate in those traditions this year. I didn’t have a choice, it was what I had to do. I was alone and my companion was a big bowl of gratitude. 

I was alone for 5 days;  by that I mean that I literally couldn’t be within 3 feet of another person or furry friend. No hugging, no canoodling, nothing. My husband was in the house with me at times but had to stay in another room so we texted and talked on the phone even though he was literally in the other room. We laughed and tried to make jokes but truth be told, it was strange, a very very strange holiday weekend.

This is a side effect of receiving an iodine radiation treatment for thyroid cancer. My PT scan showed some lingering cancerous cells so iodine radiation is how it’s treated and once administered, I had to adhere to a strict quarantine protocol for 1 week and now some milder restrictions for 1 month.

I was visiting with one of my dearest long time friends recently and she was talking about the concept of being alone vs. lonely. She had just come back from a business trip to Europe and for the first time, went a day early to explore the city and all it had to offer. She described how she was anxious about it at first but realized that she just happen to be traveling for business, so why not take in the sites? By no means, however,  did the fact that she was traveling abroad alone mean that she was lonely. There is a big difference.

Lonely leaves you feeling like there’s no one else in the world who would want to be by your side and being alone is simply what you are doing at the moment. Lonely is a sad feeling you have when you crave companionship because you don’t have it in your life yet being alone is simply a temporary to way describe your surroundings at a given moment.

I thought of my little furry friend and if he had been home with me during this time. He would have been sitting outside my bedroom door with his little wet nose pressed up against my door and I would see a little white paw peaking under the door. I pictured it often and it made me smile and miss him even more. Then my thoughts went tp my kids and realized that they would be doing the exact same thing in their own little way; “Mom, Mom, Mommy…” … Then I let the list get longer and longer in my head… the list of all the wonderful people in my life who were “standing outside my door” waiting for me to be able to come out and play again.

I’m not lonely….not by a long shot. I had to endure a “forced time out,” but lonely is not how I would ever describe how I feel about my life. This was just my temporary description of my surroundings and with it comes a boat load of gratitude. I give thanks this holiday season for so many reasons. I’m so grateful that I had the chance to have iodine radiation therapy to kill off my remaining cancer cells. I got to leave the hospital after my treatment and go to the comfort of my home when there are so many people who are suffering and spending the holiday in the hospital. As I was receiving my treatment on the day before Thanksgiving, my thoughts went to a past neighbor who I had just learned had passed away and her funeral was going on at the very moment I was receiving my treatment. That hit me hard. I didn’t know her well, I just knew that she was close to my age, with a family, children and she didn’t have a curable type of cancer like I do. I was in that PT scan machine under a blanket for 2 hours feeling more grateful than I ever had in my entire life.

I came across this passage regarding gratitude from the lovely Elizabeth Gilbert and it’s as if she was speaking directly to me: “Gratitude is my comfort and my shelter and my ever-loyal companion. If I can remember to carry my gratitude with me everywhere I go, then I am ALWAYS at home. With gratitude in my heart, I am never in the wrong place, never with the wrong people, never disoriented, jacked-up, or confused. With gratitude, nothing is ever missing. With gratitude, everything stays cool and everything is always perfect — even when it might appear not to be. Without gratitude, nothing is EVER gonna be quite good enough. No place will ever be the right place, nothing will ever happen at the right time, no reward is ever enough, all the people around you are always the wrong people, the room is always too hot or too cold, somebody else is always having a better time than you, somebody else always has a better car than you, or a better job, or a better marriage, or better hair, or a better destiny in general..and life is basically THE SUCK.”

I could have had a lot to pout about these past 5 days and the past 3 months, but I just don’t feel that way. I’ve walked into the hospital each time with a feeling of peace and hope and so damn happy to be there and I just couldn’t put my finger on WHY I’ve felt this way. Until now.

So while the definition of gratitude IS the act of giving thanks, it may sound strange but I give thanks TO gratitude for locking elbows with me on this journey because it’s the one word answer to the question I get asked the most “How have you stayed so strong and positive?” This is it, right here.

Tracie Cornell

Tracie is a writer, blogger, and corporate sales and leadership trainer. A native of Buffalo NY, she lives there with her husband and 15 and 11 year old daughters.   She has been a facilitator for 19 years while also pursuing her passion for writing, coaching and sharing her story of divorce, loss, and a cancer diagnosis all with the goal of connecting with other women to help them through all of life transitions. When she is not writing, traveling for work, and carpooling, she can be found at yoga, on a bike trail, or sitting in a local cafe sipping a latte while on her laptop.  She loves dinners out with her husband and friends and is constantly thinking of where their next vacation will be. Along with being a regular feature writer on HER VIEW FROM HOME - a lifestyle magazine that connects your view to the rest of the world, she is also a contributor on the Huffington Post Lifestyle and Divorce sections. Tracie has an essay, "Getting Back to Me" in the anthology "EAT PRAY LOVE MADE ME DO IT", the follow-up book to Elizabeth Gilberts's bestselling novel where she describes how she found the strength to start taking care of herself as her marriage was falling apart. The book is available now on Amazon and wherever books are sold. Find her at tracielynncornell.com where you can also find how to connect with her on social media.

How Grateful I Am for a Mother Who Believed in Me

In: Cancer, Grief
Mother and grown daughter, color photo

It was a hot summer day sometime in the middle of high school. I was young and naive, but the ugly six-letter word was looming over our family: cancer. Although I didn’t know it then, this would be our last normal summer before my mother’s health would worsen. Cancer would give way to terminal cancer. It’s funny how something so big can seem so small in those moments. My mom and I were sitting on our back porch, encased in a narrow hedge of yew bushes. It was a yellow, lazy Saturday, and my brothers and father were at Cub...

Keep Reading

A Medical Diagnosis Challenges a Marriage

In: Cancer, Living, Marriage
Bald woman holding clippers over husband's head, color photo

It is no secret now that Albert Pujols and his wife have announced their divorce shortly after she had surgery to remove a brain tumor. As a breast cancer survivor, this news hit me in a special way. As I was reading through an article from Today, there was a quote that hit me hard, “But a marriage falling apart is far more common when the wife is the patient, researchers have found. A woman is six times more likely to be separated or divorced soon after a diagnosis of cancer or multiple sclerosis than if a man in the relationship is...

Keep Reading

When You’re Barely Hanging On, It’s OK to Ask For Help

In: Cancer, Living, Motherhood
Worn mailbox, color photo

I’m a bundle full of fun. My list of fun things include being diagnosed with cancer at age 33, having the BRAC1 gene mutation, doing six months of oral chemo, having a hysterectomy at 34, my ovaries and tubes out at 34, enduring a double mastectomy, and a million scans and procedures under my belt, followed by five months of oral chemo. I was a stay-at-home mom during this time with a 7, 5, and 2-year-old.  Sometimes I feel like I experienced a whole lifetime in one short snapshot of a year.   At the beginning of my diagnosis, our mailbox...

Keep Reading

This is What Cancer Looks Like

In: Cancer, Motherhood
Mother lying on bed with toddler sprawled across her, color photo

While I was going through active treatment and recovering from procedures and surgeries, certain moments during the day triggered this thought in my head, This is what cancer looks like. I envisioned a still shot of that moment and that title above it. One of the first times I had this thought was when I was lying on the couch watching my daughter play. I was fatigued and my heart was racing, but I was still a mom needing to supervise my 2-year-old.  She came over and held my hand.  This is what cancer looks like. In the days following...

Keep Reading

Cancer is Not in Charge

In: Cancer, Living
Mother with bald head holding child, color photo

My entire life, I’ve felt much pride and comfort in being a person who was highly organized, a planner, someone who truly enjoys predictability. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, everything that encompassed my normal way of living was disrupted. And there was no way to fix it. This was not a good feeling—frankly, it sucked. I’m a stay-at-home mom of three young children. My first thoughts after my breast cancer diagnosis were how this was going to affect them. Would they even still have a mother in a year? These are terribly hard things to think about when you...

Keep Reading

But Dad, We Were Supposed To Have More Time

In: Cancer, Grief
Man smiling at camera

September 5, 2015 was one of the worst days of my life. It was the day I found out my dad had “it.” The word I expected but didn’t want to face.  Cancer.  Stage 4 in his lungs, bones, and spine. A week later we were told he had about six months left with us.  Six months.  A half of a year.  He was only 55. People nowadays can live to be over 100. How was it possible that he was only going to live half of a life?  They were going to be releasing him from the hospital so he...

Keep Reading

I’ll Never Go To a Seafood Restaurant With Her Again

In: Cancer, Grief
Woman alone at table

I am 19 years old and it is the smack dab middle of summer and I am sitting outside—al fresco—at my parents’ favorite restaurant at a small, round, wrought iron table on an uneven slab of cobblestone bricks. Ropes of twinkle lights hang above our heads and spool in circles around lush green plants in terra cotta pots in the corners of the courtyard. The stemware here is so thin I imagine one gust of air from a sneeze might shatter my glass into a million tiny pieces. RELATED: Don’t Take Your Mom For Granted—I’d Give Anything to Have Mine...

Keep Reading

An Open Letter To the New Cancer Mom

In: Cancer, Child, Loss, Motherhood
Oncology room childhood cancer

This is an open letter to the early days me—when my son’s cancer diagnosis was first spoken over him—and to any other cancer moms out there drifting, surviving, and rising through the trauma. The early days, those raw, pouring, dripping emotions fresh from Elijah’s diagnosis day, 2-year-old Elijah, my son. “It’s leukemia,” said the kind-eyed ER physician. His eyes were so big and brown, mirroring Elijah’s signature feature. Another signature feature of Elijah’s—his long curly beautifully golden hair—soon to be falling on pillows, on rugs, in bathtub drains, until the day he bravely said I am ready to shave it...

Keep Reading

Cancer is Something I Carry With Me Now

In: Cancer, Living
Woman showing scar on chest, black-and-white photo

Two years ago in the winter of 2019, I found out I had breast cancer. I was a young new mother and completely terrified. Fast forward to today and I am healthy, have an amazing thriving two-year-old, and am planning my wedding with my perfectly imperfect soulmate. My hair has grown back thicker and wavier even than before, my body is my own again. I have found the confidence to build my blossoming writing career from scratch and am happier than I have ever been. You hear about this happening, people turning their lives around after cancer. I’m not the...

Keep Reading

My Mother’s Love Will Never Die

In: Cancer, Grief, Loss
Mother daughter

The night my mother passed away, my sister and I, along with our families sat by her side. We held her hand as she took her last breath. We talked to her and lingered near her side until they came to take her away. It was so very sacred. I couldn’t believe she was really gone. She had battled uterine cancer and was staying at my sister’s home to be cared for full time for the last four months. I had arrived from out of state only two weeks prior, and we spent every minute together, day and night until...

Keep Reading