Wednesday, November 26, 2008

On Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is a tough holiday for gastroparetics. I know, at my brother's house, there will be cheese and shrimp and all other sorts of goodies, followed by turkey with all the trimmings, followed by several desserts. If my sister in law remembers to reserve some of her yummy pumpkin soup for me before she adds the milk (I'm lactose intolerant), I will be able to eat that, but that's pretty much all I will be able to eat all day. Short of putting a plate full of turkey, stuffing, veggies, and cranberry sauce in a blender (blech), I expect to be doing a lot of watching. I'm hoping I'll be craving the food rather than being nauseated by it, but I won't know that until the moment comes.

So why go? (There's a Pearl Jam reference there, for you PJ mavens.)

We sent out a holiday newsletter yesterday to which I received several really heartfelt and heartwarming responses. In it, I tried to answer the question: Why celebrate when we're sick and the economy is lousy and we're all terrified of losing our jobs and our insurance and even our houses? For me, the answer is: YOU!

It's impossible not to get down, especially during the holidays, especially this year with the economy creating such fear. I'm no pollyanna; I'm not going to tell you everything's going to be okay. It's probably not -- at least, not everything. I have down days and weeks like anybody with a chronic illness has.

But after we sent out our newsletter yesterday, I got a string of amazing notes from patients. Here's one: "You truly are an inspiration to those of us afflicted with chronic conditions. From the bottom of my heart, I wish you the very best this holiday season." And another: "You are truly a rare gem in this tough world..a very special kind lady. I wish you a warm. happy thanksgiving, and I thank you for you."

Sitting here at my computer, sick as a dog -- too sick to work outside my home these days -- I have found ways to touch people. I helped Jerry in Illinois find health insurance for her chronically ill son yesterday. I helped Mike in Washington get insurance coverage for an increased dose of his medication, and now he is well and expecting another child. I helped Tonya negotiate a plan of accommodation for her son in school.

I say this not to brag, but instead, to show you what can be done without leaving one's house, and what there is to be thankful for. I am so grateful for the meaning my life takes on as a result of the ways in which I am able to touch others. I am so fortunate to have found a way to make connections without stepping away from my computer.

And I promise you that, if you are a little creative, you, too, can participate in others' lives and receive the gift of thanks that giving brings. There is no greater gift. Jennifer


  1. I hope you have a great Thanksgiving weekend--if not with food, shopping at least. Online too! You probably have no idea how many people you help, free phone calls, emails, disability books, just being there. You rock and I hope you at least get some granitas--cranberry, orange, something you love, love, love!

    Debbie~you helped me out around 2004 and I still have the book with the post-it on it :-)

  2. Have you seen the book, "Ode to Diet Coke: Disability, Choices and Control, by Barbara Linn? Available at

    The memoir of a disability rights leader who confronts the long term health care system. Mixing horror and humor, it is a compelling read.