Thank You for this Breath

Thanksgiving 2007. We had a month old baby girl and were over the moon in love with her. But I wasn’t sleeping at all which made me a little psychotic and I had mastistis, a breast infection, which made breastfeeding excruciating. Looking back, I probably also had post partum depression. Or was it intuition about what was coming?

Still, our baby was healthy and happy and we were trying to adjust to new life rhythms.

Following Thanksgiving, I underwent a series of scans that led to a biopsy, that led to being diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer on December 13. My daughter was 2 months old.


This moment. This breath.


I went for chemo at MD Anderson throughout 2008, and often asked my friend GG to accompany me. I looked forward to being with her because she was relaxed and neutral and present. She didn’t try to cheer me up. She was just available and gave her time generously. Each time I called her up to see if she could come, the answer was always yes, without checking her schedule.

I found it natural to be grateful for many blessings-health insurance, the support of family and friends, the ability to take time off work, my daughter’s health and the love she received from community. But it was hard to be grateful for the rest-the impact on my body of grueling procedures, life interruptions, the pain, the fear of leaving my daughter, the insomnia, the emotional ups and downs that felt terrible when everyone was trying to be kind.

When GG was there, she helped me stay in the present moment, expressing gratitude for things exactly as they were. Often, that was the opposite of what I was feeling, which was scared and exhausted.

After the nurses set up infusion bags, while waiting to begin the chemo, we set a healing intention.  We prayed the chemo would reach the cancer cells and spare the rest.

And each time, GG made this simple statement: “Thank You for this moment. Thank You for this breath.”

So simple. I couldn’t have come up with those words, but her prayer shifted me into being present with everything just as it was: the boredom of the moment, how slow it all went, the physical discomfort, my connection to a loving friend, and the profound lack of certainty.

Ten years later, I’m still learning to be thankful for each moment and each breath.