My dear friend Alexi wrote a post on Facebook some time ago—it was so full of optimism and happiness that it has stayed with me. She did not announce any new news, nor some philosophical point of view seeking to raise awareness of the goodness of people or the beauty of the universe. Instead, she listed—I’d say purposefully even—those things she was grateful for. I found myself reading this list of hers and smiling. I could even see her writing it—almost as if it came easily, without much thought.
I promised myself I, too, would make a list, yet I never got around to it. Somehow, whenever I tried, the words just didn’t fly on to the page. Yet, as we face the end of the year, I find myself thinking about that list she made and thinking, if anything were to happen to me tomorrow, would there be a record of what I was grateful for? It spurred me into action and as we close on 2014, I sat down and created this list.
I am grateful for my family. Every single day I realize how lucky I am for them. My partner and our kids are my life. Perhaps it was the loss of my own father that made me realize just how precious they are to me. So, to Henry, Izzy, Harry, and Sophie—I love you.
I am grateful for my mom. As I grow older, I have come to recognize how special my relationship is with my mom. She has always been my best friend and confidante, and has always given me the best advice—whether it be in my personal life or in my professional one. Her words are simple, and they have applied to me and my siblings—do what you love, and aim to do it well.
I am grateful for my sisters. I grew up a middle child, but I was the only boy, too—Michelle and Maerica were ahead of me, Precy and Marie behind me. But we grew up together, and our bonds have only grown as we have grown older. It doesn’t matter that we live far apart—in Hawaii, and Tennessee, Connecticut and Oregon—blood is certainly thicker than water. And I know if I needed them, they would be right there.
I am grateful for my friends. I have always been one to hold friendships and am proud to count among them people I met when I was six years old all the way to ones I just recently have gotten to know. Although I always imagined “we” all would grow old together, I have been shocked to be reminded once more that life holds no guarantees—as such, I have had to say goodbye to a few of them way too early. Still, one cannot really explain what it is that brings people together and allows it to hold, but I have always known there is a force at play that bridges time and distance, and for that I am also eternally grateful.
I am grateful that I get to be a doctor. I know of no other profession that allows one to be a part of another person’s life in such an intimate way and to help make a profound impact on the lives of so many people. I have gotten to know so many people—patients and their loved ones—that I can only feel my own life has been enriched by knowing them. Perhaps, that is the true gift of medicine, and the one that keeps so many interested in entering it.
I am grateful to my mentors. No one gets where they are in medicine (or in any career, for that matter) on their own. I am fortunate that I have been lifted on the shoulders of many others who came before me. These relationships have fostered my development as an oncologist, a doctor, a person. They are not all clinicians and scientists either—they have been administrators, medical school deans, cancer center leaders, and yes- even patients. All of them have helped—and continue to help—me evolve. And I continue to do so with their formidable guidance.
As we say goodbye to 2014, I encourage each of us to take a moment and reflect on the year each of us had, and to think of what it is we are grateful for. It can be as specific or general as we want it to be, but I think it has been a good exercise for me. At the very least, it has reminded me of just how lucky I am to be where I am, doing what I am doing, and living the life I am supposed to live—right now.
P.S.: Surprisingly, this list was not that hard to write.