Gratitude on Back-to-School Night

Gratitude on Back-to-School Night

It’s always interesting how different memories attach to different events in our minds. This does not typically happen in the moment.  It’s usually later that certain events take on a different significance.

My best example of this is from 2011: my thyroid cancer and Back-to-School Night.

There isn’t a logical link, and I know the “important” dates: when I was told there was something suspicious on my ultrasound (September 9), the fine needle biopsy that followed (September 19) and the surgery to remove my thyroid and the cancer (October 26).

Sometimes I think about having thyroid cancer on these particular days and sometimes I don’t.

Mostly I think about having thyroid cancer when it’s Back-to-School Night.

I couldn’t tell you the exact date of BTS Night in 2011, but I know it was either September 19 or within a couple of days of that.  The reason I know this is because I had to wear an outfit that incorporated a scarf that night.  The scarf was to hide a terrible rash on my neck that was an(other) unwelcome result from the fine needle biopsy that told me for sure that I had thyroid cancer. The rash was from the chemical they used to clean my neck before they stuck me (twice). At that point, my thyroid cancer was not public information, and I didn’t want to explain the rash (or how I got it) at BTS Night.

In that moment, the rash on my neck that everyone could see was worse than the papillary thyroid carcinoma inside me that only a handful of people knew about.

I think about this every year when I am getting dressed for BTS Night.  And so I was thinking about it twice this week.

I went through a lot of feelings at school this week – to name only a few: nervousness about how BTS Night #2 would go, exhaustion by the end of the week (there was also a late night board meeting in between our two BTS Nights – not my best calendar planning), and worry about issues needing my attention.

But the most important feeling I had this week was gratitude. BTS Night reminds me to be grateful that I didn’t have to hide anything or that my health didn’t dictate my outfit.

Much more importantly, it reminds me to be grateful for my good health – and also the good health of everyone who matters to me.

And it also reminds me that not everyone is so fortunate.

Even though everyone always tells me my surgery scar is invisible, I see it and look at it pretty regularly. And when I do, the tiny cancer (approximately 7mm – the size of a watermelon seed) that lived in me for an unknown amount of time before it was removed in 2011 flits through my mind.  I know so many people with cancer much bigger and scarier than mine – either their own or their child’s. And I know if mine flits through my mind regularly, their minds can never fully be at ease.

And, so, Back-to-School Night reminds me of all of this.  It reminds me think outside of myself (especially the every-day challenges that come with leading a school) and send up some thoughts to The Universe for all those who are affected by cancer or other serious illnesses, for those who have lost loved ones to cancer and for those who survived it. It’s constant and it’s everywhere, and it needs our support and action.

And, feeling grateful for good health when we have it – and when those close to us have it – should be constant and everywhere too.


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Wore this on my right wrist both BTS Nights to help remind me of gratitude and the many amazing people I know who are doing and have done hard things: the gold ribbon is the awareness symbol for childhood cancer



September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month.
Please be aware!

About Childhood Cancer: Cancer is the second leading cause of death in children (after accidents). About 1,250 children younger than 15 years old were expected to die from cancer in 2016. About 10,380 children in US under the age of 15 were expected to be diagnosed with cancer in 2016. (source)  
Only 4% of federal funding (through the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute) is dedicated to childhood cancer. #ItsNotOK #MoreThan4 #AwarenessFundingCures


About Thyroid Cancer: The chance of being diagnosed with thyroid cancer has risen in recent years and is the most rapidly increasing cancer in the US tripling in the past three decades.  In 2017, it’s estimated that there will be about 56,870 new cases of thyroid cancer (42,470 in women and 14,400 in men) and about 2,010 deaths from thyroid cancer. (source) #CheckYourNeck





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