12/05/2011 07:07 pm ET Updated Feb 04, 2012

Thankful for Another Year

As I write this, I am on a flight from my hometown of Chicago back to Palm Springs where I have been in treatment for cancer. I got the clearance from my oncologist to make the trip. One can't help but worry when so far away from one's doctor and hospital. I was set for a great time, and blocked my disease from my mind.

Thanksgiving, my agenda this year was to be with my "big" family and loved ones -- those who support me and my writings. Last Thanksgiving, as I described in my first blog, I was "held hostage" by stage IV breast cancer and could go nowhere. Therefore I am so thankful not only for another year but also to have been able to travel home once more, with heartfelt thanks to my "California brother!"

As the plane descended at O'Hare, I was reminded of my five years of flying around the country in quest of the "silver bullet cure," as well as thoughts of wonderful years gone by before I was acquainted with this dreaded disease.

I am met at the airport by my sister and her daughter. From there, we stopped at one of my favorite hamburger haunts. It hadn't changed a bit, just the bartenders and waitresses were older.

My home for the holiday would be with my sister, her husband, my niece and nephew. They have a huge home in a very woodsy location. It was a sweet change from the California dust and palm trees. Rain and grey skies were welcome for a change, although we did have a little sunshine.

Once we arrived, my sister presented me with a lovely painting of a cat reminiscent of a favorite childhood pet. I was given my own room and bath upstairs, and I mean s-t-a-i-r-s. I wondered if I could handle that many stairs each day without stirring up my diseased bones? I managed to bring what I needed each day downstairs with me so I only made perhaps two trips up a day. After the second day of this I felt a change in my body... pain, but I did not let on.

On Thanksgiving Day, I was able to make a favorite dish and help my sister and niece in the kitchen. We had a lovely 23-lb. turkey cooked to perfection, with all the trimmings and then some.

My father arrived not knowing I was in town, and the look on his face... wow! Then my other nephew came, and my niece with her husband and baby who I had not seen in so long. Finally my "big" sister and her husband came with so many goodies from the bakery, and gifts. She had gone through bladder cancer a couple years back, and looked good all things considered. I received a very special prayer shawl from her.

It was now dessert time and the doorbell rang again. My youngest brother with his wife and five children surprised me. They ranged in age from six months to seven years old. I had not met the younger two before, so it was nice to see them for the first time. All smiles, the little ones graced me with yet another gift: a beautiful Swarovski crystal "kitty" necklace. Everyone knows I love kitties.

Later that evening, the news announced that Maggie Daley had just passed away from stage IV breast cancer. I felt so sad, as I had been following her for the past few years, and to die on Thanksgiving? I could not help but think of all my friends who have died this year in my cyber group... so many!

It was then time to say goodnight and head upstairs. As I turned in I smiled, and was so thankful I was able be there with everyone.

Next morning was "girls' pamper day" -- manicures and pedicures for my sister and niece and me, what fun! My other niece drove all the way from Lodi, Wisc. to see me, even though she's been suffering from MS for many years, how thoughtful. She is as pretty and bubbly as ever!

After our pampering, time for a Chicago treat... an Italian beef sandwich and fries at Luke's, another favorite haunt. You can't leave town without a Chicago hot dog or beef, that's a rule!

That evening, my brother-in-law said, "Okay, get ready, we are going to China Town for dinner." It was a pretty long haul from where we were in the suburbs to the city. It was raining at a pretty steady pace as we drove down there. I think we must have ordered half the menu -- so delicious!

On the way back home he took us by the Magnificent Mile, Michigan Avenue. It was awesome: all the lights, the stores, the water tower and the towering new statue of Marilyn Monroe -- what a kick.

My "big" sister and two other nieces (one from San Diego with her husband and the other with her new baby girl) orchestrated a brunch the next day with at least 20 of us. I was able to see my nephew, who has been dealing with health issues for some time, and his little boy. Unfortunately, one of my sisters (I have three) and her husband could not make it, they stayed at their home in Michigan.

Again, that night my brother-in-law planned a special evening: a movie (The Descendants) and a drive to Logan Square in the city for real Chicago-style pizza. Still raining, but that did not surprise me, having grown up in the Midwest.

There was no way I was leaving Chicago without visiting my dad's elegant residence in Wheaton, the Wyndemere. You see, I have a fan club there of Dad's retirement friends: Mr. Kurt, Helen, Berwyn and so many others, who read my blogs and say constant prayers for me. I was so immersed in their love each time they hugged me.

The joy of my being back home with a cheerful attitude and fairly good mobility was enough for me. In spite of the toll this disease can take on one's appearance, everyone said I looked so good.

Even as my pain is setting in now with a vengence, I would not change a thing about my visit home. It seems we crammed more joy and fun into a few days than I had, had in years. I am hopeful for an encore next year!

I received so many wonderful gifts from my family but none was better than just to hug them once again, each and every one of them!

Until next time,