This Thanksgiving Will Be Different

Sean Baumstark avatar

by Sean Baumstark |

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awkward moments, progression, Rare Disease Day, grief, move forward, small lessons

It’s almost unbelievable that we continue to be significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In many ways, the effects of the pandemic are greater today than they were nine months ago.

In March, I remember thinking that it would pass before my birthday in May. I know many people who thought that we’d certainly be in the clear by the winter holidays. Yet here we are, just days away from Thanksgiving, and states all over the country are experiencing a dramatic surge in positive cases.

For some of us, this might be the most bizarre Thanksgiving yet. For others, it will be the most relaxed. Sadly, for too many, it will be the hardest and most painful one. Wherever you are on that spectrum, one thing is certain: This year is different than others.

I’ve been thinking a lot about families who must play it safe, continue their months-long isolation, and restrict their out-of-home activities to mitigate health complications. I think about the families who have lost a loved one this year, no matter the reason or cause, and who couldn’t say good-bye in the traditional way of gathering for a funeral or a memorial. I also think about those who have faced financial hardships this year due to job loss, foreclosures, delays in government assistance, and so on.

If you’re anything like me, you’re no stranger to difficulties or hard times. Specifically when considering health conditions, rare disease and disabilities present their own daily, ongoing, uphill battles.

Living with Friedreich’s ataxia, I’m constantly battling fatigue and what feels like a complete lack of energy. I also find myself struggling with simple tasks others might never even think about, such as brushing my teeth or carrying my groceries in from my car. I have good days and bad days, easy days and hard ones.

However, what I work to keep in mind is the faith that it won’t always be this way.

This year has been tough, and we aren’t in the clear yet. Thanksgiving, and most likely Christmas and New Year’s, will all be experienced under the dark, heavy cloud of the coronavirus. I can’t sugarcoat the public health crisis our world continues to battle. Nor can I dismiss the painful and hard Thanksgiving so many people will experience this week.

Although we can’t simply change those circumstances, we can choose to keep our eyes on the prize of a better future, safer interactions, and the return of hugs and handshakes. I know this is a challenging season, but I believe that when we remain steadfast in our resolve, whether talking about disability or a contagious virus, this too shall pass.

I want to encourage you to remain hopeful of your future and remind yourself of things you are grateful for. After all, it’s Thanksgiving, a time to reflect on what you do have and what you have learned. 

Instead of focusing energy on the difficulties and the disappointments of this year, dig deep and identify the things in your life that you are grateful for. Make a list so you don’t forget, and if you’re missing out on the traditional family gatherings you’re used to, call someone you’d normally be with and share your list. You can laugh and cry together if need be, and start brainstorming ideas for the next time you can “raise your glasses” face to face.


Friedreich’s Ataxia News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Friedreich’s Ataxia News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Friedreich’s ataxia.


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