Cancer Survivor Struggles to Celebrate Thanksgiving

Health & Wellness

Thanksgiving Day is approaching, and I’m already looking forward to feasting on honey baked ham, fried turkey with all the trimmings, cakes, pies and enjoying a good round of gossip with my family.

As a four-year, peritoneal mesothelioma survivor, I’m thankful I can still enjoy those things in my life.

Last year, I spent the holiday in a Tulsa, Oklahoma, hospital for laparoscopic surgery. Luckily, I brought my husband, two boys and mother along with me for the company. It was a little Thanksgiving vacation.

Although I’m happy about spending time with family this Thanksgiving Day, I can’t help but feel grief about some recent challenges, including losing a business, working too many long hours and stressing about how to provide for my family.

Threat of Losing My Business

I launched my first bakery, Sugarbelle, on April 21, 2013, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Financial experts say a new business often doesn’t turn a profit until three to five years after opening. I was determined to beat those odds, and I did!

In less than a year after the bakery’s inauguration, I was offered the opportunity of a lifetime. Or so I thought.

A competitor was closing her business and offered me her location to lease. She left all her kitchen equipment. It was practically a turnkey shop.

Opening a second bakery seemed like an offer that I’d be a fool to pass, especially because my customers were begging me to expand. The second Sugarbelle opened its doors February 2014.

About a month after opening the second bakery, sales started dropping at my first location. Bills kept coming in and sales continued declining. At this point, I would begin my day at 5:30 a.m., work both locations daily and fall asleep by midnight.

I hired part-time employees to take some responsibilities off my plate, but that added more heft to my already heavy burden because they would arrive late or didn’t show up at all. I was practically operating both stores alone.

What Else Could Go Wrong?

While I was in Tulsa for my routine, 90-day treatment, my business landlord called to say she had sold the building.

I cried every day. I felt it was only a matter of time before I would suffer a nervous breakdown.

Since 2010, I had overcome so much, including two successful HIPEC procedures, and now a cupcake business and accumulating bills were pushing me to the edge of quitting my business.

Life seemed dark without a flicker of light. My mother was closer to our children than my husband and me because we were working so many hours, our house was a disaster and the sales at the second location continued to tank.

The only time I felt like I could actually take a breath was after taking my antidepressant.

Relief swept over me when the new landlord let me out of my lease so I could close my business and she could use the space for a nail salon.

Not Giving into Defeat

Now with the holidays approaching, I’m beginning to stress about how Santa Claus is going shopping on a nonexistent budget.

There’s plenty here to not be thankful for, but I’m a cancer survivor and I will make it work just like I’ve lived beyond the prognosis for this disease.

I will struggle, but I will make it happen. My life is a constant struggle, as are the lives of many cancer survivors who strive to succeed in the face of such adversity — personal, medical and financial.

Despite all these challenges and moments of seeming defeat, I’m still alive, healthy and with my family.

If you are facing similar obstacles in life during this festive time of year, remember to turn to those standing alongside you through this battle and thank them for being there.

I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving.

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