Steve and I have been waiting a while in the exam room, shifting uncomfortably and keeping our chatter to lighthearted topics.
We're waiting for one of the country's best head and neck surgeons, with a specialty in oncology, to come give us his opinion about my treatment plan.
Finally, he steps into the room, and I'm immediately comforted by his open, warm and confident manner.
He introduces himself, gives his credentials and a warm hello, and rolls a stool up next to the big, blue examination chair I've been sitting in, getting increasingly nervous, for over twenty minutes. He has seen all my files, reviewed my CT Scan and the case notes, and I'm bracing myself for what he has to say.
He surprises me by placing one hand on each of my shoulders and saying, "Ellie, please look at me."
I'm startled, but I stare into his eyes; his face is mere inches from mine.
"A lot of what we are going to talk about today will be frightening and unfamiliar, so I want you to really focus on what I'm going to say next. Are you with me?"
I nod, unable to speak.
"Ellie, this is treatable. It will be hard - really hard - and this holiday season will probably be the toughest of your life. But you will have many, many more holiday seasons to come. You are going to be okay."
Tears spring to my eyes, and I manage to stutter out, "Thank you. Thank you so much."
He goes on to talk - true to his word - about frightening things. My treatment will involve more surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. For weeks. But ringing through my head is one sentence, and I cling to it like a life raft: I am going to be okay.
This Thanksgiving I have so many reasons to be thankful. We're facing a long hard road, for sure, but I am surrounded by loving family and friends and I feel confident, hopeful and strong.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, from our family to yours.