How do you say thank you?

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cervical_cancer_patient_how_do_you_say_thank_you.JPGBy Linda Ryan

I recently took my 99-year-old grandmother to dinner with my friend Barbara. Barbara is the friend who went to Texas with me for treatment every other visit so my husband could stay home and maintain some normalcy for our two boys.  

When Barbara was saying goodbye to Nana, Nana got tearful and said, "Thank you. We tried hard to find a way to thank you and your friends for what you did for Linda."

Of course, Barbara and I both fought back tears. When Nana said "we," she was talking about my parents and herself.

I've thought about this quite a bit over the past year: How do you say thank you to people who've given so much of themselves for you and your family? 

When I was going through treatment, meals were brought to our home for weeks at a time. A very close friend coordinated the meals: who was bringing, what time to bring, disposable dishes and so on. 

There were at least 50 meals prepared and delivered. Some by people I'd never met. There's so much good in this world. I believe that most everyone who has been diagnosed with cancer has seen the goodness that comes from the least expected places. 

"Cancer gifts"
Caring that's shown in ways that are both creative and comforting.

If anyone reading this has been diagnosed with cancer they,'ll understand what I mean when I say "cancer gifts."  

I got everything from books to sweets to brain game books, plants, comforting blankets, signs with words of encouragement and hundreds of cards. It's amazing what people come up with.  

So, back to my original question: How do you say thank you? 

Not big enough
I wrote notes to as many people as I could, but often a note didn't seem to say thank you "big" enough.

I don't think I wrote a note to my friend who coordinated meals, the friends who planned a successful 5k in my honor, or the two families who welcomed our children in their homes and treated them as family. I don't think I wrote notes to my parents and in-laws who took over household duties while I was sick. I know that I didn't write a note to Barbara. How do you say thank you for that?   

The words "thank you" can be said, but hopefully the people who did kind things felt the thanks. Hopefully, they all felt peace in their hearts by doing something good for someone else. That someone was humbled and found strength in their kindness. 

Barbara posted a picture on Facebook of us at dinner with Nana, along with what she said about never knowing how to thank my friends. Someone commented, "I think she just did."  

Linday Ryan thought she had checked cancer off her list. Having just run her first marathon, it was hard to imagine that her cervical cancer had returned after seven years. Cancer chose the wrong woman. She was ready to battle cancer for the third time with health, laughter and friendship. Follow Linda Ryan at

Read more posts by Linda Ryan

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