Thankful for every gray hair

Debbie Catlett winds through the tables at the Hannibal Nutrition Center

Debbie Catlett winds through the tables at the

Hannibal Nutrition Center

, accepting gentle hugs and warm wishes of recovery from the seniors gathered for the annual Thanksgiving meal.

Debbie's just a couple weeks removed from a major, particularly painful and rather rare surgery as part of her aggressive

breast cancer

treatment. She's not back on the job yet as administrator of the Nutrition Center, but she couldn't bear to miss her first Thanksgiving meal since she started work here 22-years-ago.

â??The seniors have been like my family,â?? Catlett told me. â??They send cards, they call, they pray for me and with me. It's really a nice feeling. It's like my family's waiting for me to come home.â??

This visit at the Nutrition Center was Debbie's first since her hair started growing back in from chemotherapy. She turned a lot of heads.

â??People told me that my hair might come back in a nice fun color. No, it's gray.â?? That may be a disappointment, but Debbie can find fun hair color in a bottle. She has other things to celebrate now that the doctors have declared her cancer-free.

This is Debbie's second battle with that beast called breast cancer. She kicked it the first time 23-years-ago. The fear of recurrence always slunk nearby like a shadow, but she didn't let the darkness take hold. Instead she sought the sunshine, enjoying her children, grandchildren and her calling to help seniors. The second diagnosis was a blow to her body and her psyche, but Debbie found strength and support in the most unlikely places. Over the summer, her grandson's baseball team the Dirtbags, all shaved their heads in solidarity for their honorary team grandma (

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At age 57, Debbie found this round of treatment even more difficult than the first. â??It's harder to bounce back,â?? she said. â??Chemo is a hateful, hateful thing, but if I want to live that's the price I've got to pay. I want to live. I want to see more ball games.â??

And she wants to see many more Thanksgiving dinners like the one she shared with the seniors today. After all, she has so much to be grateful for as she kicks off her holiday season cancer-free.

Take care ~Sarah D.