How COVID and Cancer Taught Me to Be Truly Thankful

By Lori Perkins


I hope you don’t read this headline to mean that before this I was a thankless person, or that I never really understood the meaning of giving thanks. My mother is a Protestant minister, and we did thankfulness at the dinner table, and all week long, my whole life.


But real life – the kind that keeps you moving when you are a single mom trying to provide a middle class life in one of the most expensive cities in the world and also caring for a mother with dementia – had colored my existence for at least the last decade. I told people I made the coffee, I drank the coffee, but I never had time to smell the coffee. But I was always thankful that I could buy the coffee and that coffee existed and was attainable. I really thought that was enough.


And then we were hit with COVID and my world shrank overnight. We worked from home, we made all our own meals, we saw next to no one. We discovered streaming on a national level. And online mental health.


My life grew smaller and I began to appreciate things I had never even thought about, like my cats and my local pharmacy that delivers and eight hours of sleep. When things started to open a bit, before vaccines, I promised myself I would emerge from this experience and take better care of myself. I had slowed down enough to know I no longer wanted to run.


So one of the very first things I did was get my annual mammogram. I usually do it in April around my birthday, but because of COVID, I was doing it in late June. I have no breast cancer in the family, but, guess what? I had breast cancer. During the pandemic.


The good news there was that I was diagnosed during a lull in COVID hospital cases, and I was able to get surgery, chemo and radiation quickly during a time when the whole world was slowing down. Somehow, my staff and I managed to run a publishing company from our homes.


And when we were vaccinated and the world started trying to return, we were ready, but different.


That American consumerism – the need for new clothes, new experiences, even new food – was gone, for me. All I wanted was my friends and family and a sincere belief that we all could make a better life for ourselves and each other.


I was thankful to have an opportunity to reset. I was thankful to have the time to look at the life I had made for myself and say, “this is good, but I can do better.” And mean it.


I like to think of this next phase of my life as Lori2.0