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Thankful for armpit hair

Over the past couple years I have developed a tradition of bringing international friends home with me over Thanksgiving break.

Highlights of the trip always include sharing a traditional meal from a foreign country, the Thanksgiving feast, fellowship with family and friends and the infamous Black Friday shopping.


This year, however, two of my dear friends from the Middle East, Amanda and Elnaz, decided to join me in celebrating more than just Thanksgiving.

My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer back in May of this year. After six months of fighting, praying, crying, chemo, radiation, cards, scarves and a whirlwind of doctor visits my mother is done with her treatment — she beat breast cancer.

The end of treatment for a cancer patient is undoubtedly significant, however it can be anticlimactic. One day you are fighting cancer and the next a doctor tells you you’re finished with treatment. You have reached the supposed end of your battle, but there is no momentous change in how you feel or look. The negative effects of treatment can still be felt, and the “look” of having cancer does not vanish.

A cancer survivor must see small changes as representative of larger victories.

Thursday came and my family and friends shared a quintessential Thanksgiving meal together. Muslim, Christian, atheist, Arab, American, Native American, old, young — this described the individuals who sat around my table on Thanksgiving. Yet despite all our differences in age, religion and culture, we partook in breaking bread and celebrating life together.

After we stuffed ourselves with Turkey and mashed potatoes everyone went around the table saying what they are thankful for.

Like many families, this is a tradition that takes places every year around our table. Historically, my brother and I used this as an opportunity to say outrageous things in front of family members simply for shock value. Typically the conversation goes a little something like this: “I’m thankful for good food,” “I’m thankful for the gift of family,” “I’m thankful for lamp.”  Then an awkward silence follows, confusion and finally snickering.

This year my brother and I were in no mood for joking during the activity — we had much to be thankful for, especially for the health of our mother. Everyone was quite serious in their responses to the prompt. However, my mother’s answer as to what she was thankful for took everyone by surprise.

“I’m thankful for armpit hair!” She said with a huge smile on her face. As absurd as this statement sounded it was a sign of victory for my mother. Her hair was finally starting to grow back after losing it as a result of the chemotherapy.


Armpit hair means an end to “chemo brain,” heat flashes and fatigue. It means she can watch her beloved Broncos play for years to come, eat normal food again and one day hold her grandchildren in her arms.

Armpit hair signifies triumph, moving forward, life.

I think Amanda’s thankful tort adequately summarized everyone’s mindset;“I’m thankful for the gift of life.”

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