‘Community gratitude’: Lessons learned on the road to cancer recovery


By Jan Larson and Karl Christenson | April 19, 2022

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  • Lauran and Jan Larson on the shore of Lake Superior grateful to know there is a future (Courtesy of Jan Larson)

Lauran and Jan Larson on the shore of Lake Superior grateful to know there is a future (Courtesy of Jan Larson)

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Taking notice and being thankful for the family and community we have around us often occurs when we’re facing our most difficult circumstances. Jan Larson brings us an essay about gratitude, and the lessons learned on her journey to recovery.

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Community Gratitude

I am standing on the shore. Arms at my sides, hands open, palms facing the sea as gentle swells touch the shore. The horizon shows no hint of the storms to come.

The first wave laps at my toes.

“Let’s order a CT scan just to be safe,” my doctor suggests.

A white puff appears, dim on the horizon.

“Are you driving? Can you pull over?”

I am in Friday night Minneapolis traffic heading to an Airbnb where my adult daughter and I will spend the weekend making Covid-19 masks, watching girl movies and visiting over a bottle of wine. And, now, worrying.

“I’m sorry, the CT scan came back abnormal. We’ll schedule an MRI for Monday.”

The waves cover the tops of my feet.

“It’s a tumor,” the neurosurgeon I met minutes before, tells me. Unable to join me during the office visit – another bit of Covid-19 fallout – my husband phones in from the hospital parking lot. He listens. There is nothing to say.

The images tell a story. The tumor measures roughly three inches long by an inch wide. It has been there awhile, slowly taking up space meant for my brain.

My feet melt into the wet sand as the wave covers my ankles. I breath in and blow out trying to calm my frantic heart.

We are in Rochester with yet another neurosurgeon. He assures us the tumor is benign. We cling to hope.

Clouds on the horizon show hints of gray. The seas build and I brace myself for the waves that splash white foam up my calves.

It is early morning. A young resident appears at my bedside. My head is swathed in bandages ala “The Mummy.” Lauran already knows what I am just learning. The tumor is malignant.

A rogue wave crashes the shore. I am knocked to my knees. Drenched, I struggle to regain my footing, determined to face the coming storm.

The next 10 days will be consumed waiting to learn whether we have a future. Lauran insists all will be well. I want to believe. But I don’t want to make promises I can’t keep. I share the image of my lone vigil against the storm with our youngest son.

“Mom,” he chides me. “You need to rethink that image.”

“You are not alone.  Others are on that beach, joining hands, linking arms.”

What comfort those words bring.

I construct visions of rows and rows of friends, family, loved ones, volunteers, medical professionals, and all those who will join me in facing the crashing waves, forming a barrier that surrounds me in love and healing.

Another day, another doctor. “You have a rare lymphoma. This is something you will learn to live with, not die from.”  There will be work ahead. It will be hard, but we can do hard.

Storm clouds threaten, but hints of blue appear.

I am filled with gratitude for the community that will see me through.

I am not alone.

Jan Larson

Jan Larson

Jan Larson is a professor and the Department Chair of the Communication + Journalism Department at UW-Eau Claire.
Karl Christenson

Karl Christenson

Karl Christenson is a producer at Wisconsin Public Radio. He enjoys taking his family on cross-country holiday road trips to theme parks and eating bologna sandwiches and parking in the last spot so he can get out of there first.
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2022-04-19T13:48:24-05:00Tags: , , , |

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