This Thanksgiving, I’m Grounded in Gratitude

🦋 Kerry Wong avatar

by 🦋 Kerry Wong |

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Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. It’s not about material things, or one religion over another, or one-upping anyone with decorations or extravagant gifts. It’s simply a day of gratitude. A day for friends, family, football, and of course, lots and lots of food (definitely better than the last “F-words” I wrote about).

When I was younger, we always spent Thanksgiving at my aunt and uncle’s house. We made our own traditions, though that was not always intentional (gotta love Gram’s “jokes”), and they were not always positive (what’s Thanksgiving without some family drama?). Still, some of those memories can make me smile years later.

I never liked turkey, so I just looked forward to the sides. Aside from about a half-dozen different carbs, my mom always made sweet-and-sour mini meatballs. I loved them when I was little, but after I became a vegetarian, I couldn’t eat them anymore. Now, I’ve learned to make them with Beyond Meat products, and they are just as good as I remember. Though it wasn’t the reason I stopped eating meat, some have found that a plant-based diet can alleviate some sarcoidosis symptoms.

Gratitude | Sarcoidosis News | Collage of photos from Kerry's Thanksgiving dinner 2020, which includes her veggie meatballs, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, twice baked potatoes, sweet potato casserole, and pumpkin pecan cheesecake.

Kerry’s Thanksgiving dinner, 2020. Clockwise from bottom left: veggie meatballs, air-fried cauliflower, spicy Brussels sprouts, twice baked potatoes, sweet potato casserole, and pumpkin pecan cheesecake. (Photo by Kerry Wong)

After that, my aunt added eggplant parmesan to the menu. It was awful  thick and mushy with a rubbery layer of cheese on top. She always made a point of saying that she made it special for me, though, so I never had the heart to tell her I didn’t like it (which led to her doing it again, year after year). 

It’s all got a different feel to it now, though. 

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Since I got sick, chronic illness hangs over any plans I make. I can have the best of intentions, but I always have to make a game-day decision about whether I’ll be able to go anywhere, or if the pain, fatigue, and other symptoms will keep me home. Since the pandemic, that decision has been made for me. Even though I’m fully vaccinated, I can’t risk the exposure of a big family gathering given my compromised immune system.

But even in the hard times — especially in the hard times — this day of giving thanks is important. More than the day, it’s the “attitude of gratitude” that can be vital. It doesn’t mean that our troubles don’t matter, but it reminds us that even on the darkest days, there is still some light.

Though I didn’t have a name for my disease yet, my symptoms led me to stop working in November 2013. (It took another 2.5 years before I was approved for disability benefits, but that’s another story.) That was a huge emotional hit that left me feeling especially low. On a friend’s advice, I did a 30-day gratitude challenge, sharing something I was thankful for every day in November.

I’ve been seeing those posts come up in my Facebook memories, and I’m reminded of all the good in my life, both then and now. The greatest gifts in my life, my husband and my mom, mean even more now, as I’ve had to lean on them so much more than I ever thought I would. 

Though I wouldn’t wish sarcoidosis on anyone, there is still a cornucopia of things to be thankful for. 

It’s been said that the best things in life aren’t things, so what I’m most grateful for is my sarcoidosis family. Whether we connect in person or virtually, our shared experiences bring us together. As difficult as life with a rare disease can be, it helps to know we’re not alone.

As I sit here writing from my infusion center, another thing I’m grateful for becomes obvious: the nurses who take such good care of me every week. Alongside them, I’m grateful for the doctors who truly listen and work with me and one another, adapting to my changing needs, and for the science that brought about my treatments.

Finally, I’m grateful for the opportunity to use my experience to help others. I grew up volunteering with my mom and grandmother, and most of my career was in nonprofits. When I had to stop, I felt like I’d lost my purpose. What I’ve come to realize, though, is that we need far more as people than any company or staff can provide (though we need what they offer, too).

What we need is to feel seen, heard, believed, and understood. Those of us with sarcoidosis need to know that someone else has gone through this, and that they’ve found a way to get through it. That’s how we know that we can get through it, too — together. It’s what I needed, and now it’s what I can offer to others. I’ve found my purpose again.

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Note: Sarcoidosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sarcoidosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sarcoidosis.

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