A Not-So-Usual Thanksgiving

As I was approaching the finish line of writing my new thriller NOT SO DONE, the standalone sequel to NOT SO DEAD and NOT SO GONE, I considered changing the subtitle to The Final Sam Sunborn Novel. It’s not that Sam and his cohorts are done saving the world or that I tired of him – it’s that the author, aka me, was diagnosed with cancer last week. The doctor started his phone call to me, reporting test results, “Bad news….” That was a very clarifying moment. Although the doctor said my condition is treatable if it hasn’t spread, all I heard was The Big C.

So Now What?

After absorbing the shock, I started thinking about what I wanted to do with my remaining time on Earth. The answer was simple – spend time with family and the friends I care about and finish NOT SO DONE. My OCD also compelled me to think about tying up loose ends, paying bills, etc. Why is finishing my novel so high on the list? I believe it’s because after working on it for almost a year, I’m emotionally invested and have a passion for it. And maybe I owe it to Sam Sunborn, Rich Little, Michelle Hadar, Renata Fermi, Frank Einstein, the Leopard, and the other characters to finish their story. Isn’t it the same reason that you’d want to spend time with those closest to you? You’re emotionally invested and have a passion for them. Perhaps, the characters in my novels have become part of my family or at least friends. No, I’m sure of it – they have.

Charles levin Author

Turkey Bowl 2000 – the author is in the flag t-shirt

So, today is Thanksgiving 2019. I had my surgery yesterday to remove the cancerous invader. Our canceled family plans included a long-anticipated trip to California to spend the holiday with our sons and grandkids. I’m disappointed not to be with them today, but the surgeon advised operating as soon as possible. I reflect both wistfully and with gratitude on the many great Thanksgivings past. For twenty years, we held a Thanksgiving morning Turkey Bowl, replete with flag football, bonfire, and hot apple cider.  My youngest son would open the football game playing the national anthem on his trumpet. The fragrance of the burning wood from the fire stays with me. We’d invite family and friends and the boys would ask all their friends to come. Sometimes we’d host nearly sixty people.

The Turkey Bowl

The first Turkey Bowl we held in the mid-80s presented a bit of a challenge – twelve inches of snow on Thanksgiving morning. Instead of canceling, we called everyone and asked them to bring their sleds. That sledding party on the steep hill across the street from us on a snowy holiday morning will never be forgotten. The best memories and stories seem to come from things-gone-wrong, don’t they?

What do you do with only a couple of days before cancer surgery? First, we took a long walk on a warmish day in the Ken Lockwood Gorge near our home. The doctor said it would be a month before I could exercise again. The Gorge is one of my favorite places on Earth, a rustic path alongside a rushing river wedged below rocky cliffs. If you’ve read any of my previously posted personal stories, you also know how much I love the movies and movie theaters. So we caught Ford v. Ferrari and The Good Liar. They did the trick of both entertaining and distracting us.

Charles Levin Author Ken Lockwood Gorge

The Ken Lockwood Gorge

St. Elsewhere

Then, of course, there is TV.  It’s ironic timing, but my wife and I both enjoy hospital dramas and medical thrillers. I just didn’t expect to be living one. Anyway, our interest goes back to Ben Casey, Dr. Kildare, St. Elsewhere (perhaps the best), and Chicago Hope. The current ones we like are The Resident, Chicago Med, the Good Doctor, and New Amsterdam. One of the reasons hospital dramas make good thrillers is that they are always high-stakes and emotionally charged, life-or-death by their very nature. The good ones include an eccentric Sherlock Holmes type character like House, one of our favorites, who inevitably solves/diagnoses cases successfully after several missteps. So the night before surgery, we watched The Resident, where someone comes into the ER with something minor like a hangnail, gets treated, and dies. Maybe that was not the best choice to watch on my part.

Flash forward to yesterday – my surgery was successful. The culprit was removed and preliminary tests indicate that the cancer has not spread. Although we can’t be with friends and family today, I am genuinely optimistic and grateful this Thanksgiving to be sitting here at my laptop writing this post. I plan to finish writing NOT SO DONE and hopefully many more. That means there’s no need to use the subtitle The Final San Sunborn Novel. Besides, that subtitle would have been a spoiler and perhaps given away the ending. And we don’t really know what the ending is anyway, do we?

Post Update November 25, 2020:

It’s been one year to the day that the capable Dr. Sperling removed my tumor. I’m happy to report subsequent scans and blood tests have been all clear. So, although we will not have a big crowd this year as you see in the picture above, I am truly grateful to be here to enjoy this Thanksgiving with my wife, Amy. Oh, and I did finish writing NOT SO DONE and published it in paperback, Kindle ebook, and audiobook this past July. My characters Sam, Monica, Michelle, Rich, Juan, and even the villains are grateful to live on too. After all, they are depending on me.

Author’s Note: If you have a great Thanksgiving or things-gone-wrong story, please share in the Comments below for all of us to enjoy.

Read for FREE some of my recent short stories:
Missing the Ghost in the Palace Theater
The Gift
The Science of Regret
Nirvana Soda
Moon Landing Memories
Zombie Phone
Word Drunk

P.S. My original fast-paced thriller NOT SO DEAD and the new techno-thriller, NOT SO GONE, are now available on Amazon. Read more about it. Better yet, buy a copy?
Audiobook versions available on AmazonAudible and iTunes
Find me on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn also
Oh, and please do join the Mailing List for news and future blog posts.

Share This Post

Related Posts


  1. Colleen Kavanaugh on November 29, 2019 at 1:07 pm

    Charlie, Thank you for this Thanksgiving story within this story of Thanksgiving. NOT SO DONE, what a choice for a previously chosen title as it seems to have taken on a deeper meaning and new life of its own, no pun intended. All the best towards your speedy recovery and an endless string of Sam Sunborn novels!

    • Charles Levin on November 29, 2019 at 1:54 pm

      Thank you for your kind words. Sam is definitely death-adverse:)

  2. Reta Robbins on November 29, 2019 at 11:01 pm

    I just finished watching a movie with family called, “PEANUT BUTTER FALCON”, about a Down’s Syndrome man in his early 20’s who escapes from the confined safety of a nursing home, where he is placed for care and supervision, to be freely on his own. At one point he asks, “Am I going to die?”. Answer: “Of course. We all die. But having a story worth telling is something that only happens to a few!” You certainly have a story worth telling. I am grateful that you can now tell many more. Live long and prosper, Charlie.

    • Charles Levin on November 30, 2019 at 9:32 am

      Thanks for sending kind thoughts and a good story my way. Good stories inspire, teach, entertain and bring us all together. I plan to share a few more. Happy holidays to you!

  3. Charles on November 30, 2019 at 12:37 am

    Blown away with the news Charlie. Take care of yourself and heal quickly and painlessly. Talk to you in a few days.

    Love to all, CD

    • Holly Edge on November 30, 2019 at 12:09 pm

      I’m glad they caught your cancer early. It’s a very scary disease, but your odds are good. Feel free to contact me if you want someone to talk to.
      In April of 2017, I was diagnosed with stage 3C ovarian cancer. I’ve had 2 surgeries, 3 types of chemo and I’m now on an estrogen blocker. There are details in my blog if anyone wants to read them. I use medical marijuana to treat the pain, nausea, neuropathy, etc.

      • Charles Levin on November 30, 2019 at 12:45 pm

        Wow – what a journey you’ve been on. Thanks for sharing. I’ll wish us both a healthy, happy holiday.

  4. Charles on November 30, 2019 at 1:23 am

    St. Elsewhere has no equal. However, Mash is in same class, probably best ever.: I like waffles. A correction to you: Amy may have missed Casey and Kildare. No 📺.

    • Charles Levin on November 30, 2019 at 9:29 am

      You have an amazing memory. You’re right Amy had no TV as a kid. Thanks so much for the well wishes! Let’s catch up.

  5. Judy Morris on November 30, 2019 at 10:00 am

    Glad they got the culprit out of you, now you can write more books. Happy Thanksgiving was okay here but Christmas will be the big one here.

    • Charles Levin on November 30, 2019 at 11:32 am

      Thank you and have a wonderful Xmas!

  6. Judy on November 30, 2019 at 10:05 am

    NOT SO DONE. You are also, not so done. In today’s world with treatment –you fight as you go with correct diet and support of those who love you. My husband is almost 5 years in remission from colon cancer. You started correctly by removing the blight –and it had not spread. May God give you the strength and your sense of self and humor will do you well in the months to come. Keep writing…

    • Charles Levin on November 30, 2019 at 11:34 am

      Thank you so much for the kind words. May you and your husband enjoy many more years of good health!

  7. Geoffrey Parker on November 30, 2019 at 10:44 am

    Gosh, Charlie, what awful news! So glad the surgery was successful. I wish you a speedy and complete recovery. God bless for not giving up – whatever that means. Looking forward to many more words from you, and grateful they will come.


    • Charles Levin on November 30, 2019 at 11:37 am

      Thank you so much for the well wishes. I have a lot more stories to tell and I appreciate your being so super-supportive. Hope your new career is going well and that you enjoy this wonderful holiday season. It’s great to be alive:)

  8. Carol on November 30, 2019 at 11:10 am

    Praying for a swift and complete healing for you. And thank you for sharing your story with your readers, not many would do something like that. Sounds like they found it early and all will be well!

    • Charles Levin on November 30, 2019 at 11:38 am

      Thank you for your kind wishes! I wish you and your family the best of holiday seasons. It’s great to be alive:)

  9. Jackie on November 30, 2019 at 11:36 am

    Wow. That’s a lot to digest. Glad everything turned out alright. That was a real Thanksgiving day. All the best. Take care of yourself.

    • Charles Levin on November 30, 2019 at 11:59 am

      Thank you!

  10. Julie Sealey on November 30, 2019 at 12:12 pm

    Charlie I am so glad you were able to get surgery quickly even though you missed Thanksgiving in California. I have a feeling that you will be writing many more novels and I look forward to reading them.

    • Charles Levin on November 30, 2019 at 12:47 pm

      Thanks for the kind words and your enthusiastic support. I love your book club and would enjoy coming back with NOT SO DONE. Plenty of ideas, lots to write – it’s good to be alive:) Happy holidays!

  11. Judy Roberts on November 30, 2019 at 1:33 pm

    First time I am trying one of your books, they sound great. I too like hospital/medical shows and books- I am a retired RN – after many years! Keep up the good thoughts, it sounds like you made a wise choice to avoid the turkey and have the surgery. Off I go to Read “Not so Dead”. Get well. “JR” Judy Roberts

    • Charles Levin on November 30, 2019 at 2:47 pm

      Enjoy NOT SO DEAD! Ironically appropriate title for my current situation:)
      Happy reading… Charlie

  12. Kay Brooks on November 30, 2019 at 4:45 pm

    I received this devastating news in 2002 and again in 2005 with a different cancer, yet here I am today reading your newsletter. Stay positive, follow the doctor’s orders, take your medicine, and take it easy. Love your family, write your book, and with God’s blessing you will go on to lead a long and happy life. I did it, so can you!

    • Charles Levin on November 30, 2019 at 9:24 pm

      Thanks so much for sharing your inspiring story. I will take all your advice!

  13. Eliza on November 30, 2019 at 10:32 pm

    I hope you cancer story goes as well as mine ! I was diagnosed in 2013 with stage three colon cancer after a large growth was removed a year and half of chemo I was totally cancer free . I’m still in total remission so I live each day to the fullest . Enjoy each day and live it like it’s your last because you’ll not regret it .

    • Charles Levin on December 1, 2019 at 10:54 am

      Wow – that’s truly a scary story, but clearly your courage and spirit won out. Thanks so much for sharing and stay healthy!

  14. Amy on December 1, 2019 at 9:12 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your story! What good news, ultimately!

    Our big family meal disaster was actually a Christmas dinner at our first house when we were newlyweds. The Moms were in charge of the turkey, and somehow the oven never got turned on. We waited & waited for that cooking turkey smell that never came. Instead, we quickly pulled out a frozen package of chicken breasts…and microwaved them (with a little Old Bay!) We all laughed A LOT.

    • Charles Levin on December 1, 2019 at 10:52 am

      Those mishaps make the best stories, don’t you think? If the Turkey was perfect, you would have forgotten about it. So maybe, many times things-gone-wrong are blessings in disguise. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Gina Johnson on December 13, 2019 at 11:35 am

    So glad to hear you have a clean bill of health. Have a blessed Christmas.

  16. Cheryl Slegers on March 15, 2020 at 7:58 pm

    To think that Ed and I played poker with you after the holidays and never had a clue that you had recently been through your surgery. Sending you healthy wishes and prayers… I have survived three cancers I believe due to early detection and alert, knowledgeable doctors and surgeons.

    • Charles Levin on March 15, 2020 at 9:34 pm

      Thank you!

  17. JackieT on November 25, 2020 at 1:58 pm

    Happy Thanksgiving. I’m so glad to hear that all is well. All the best. Love the books. I’m one of the characters in your book. Take care

    • Charles Levin on November 25, 2020 at 3:01 pm

      Thank you and all the best for happy, healthy holidays!

  18. Fran on November 25, 2020 at 2:15 pm

    I m so glad you are such a warrior & keep providing us with the stories readers enjoy. Keep the books coming, your armor on & eyes turned to the Lord. Happy Thanksgiving 🦃!

    • Charles Levin on November 25, 2020 at 3:03 pm

      Thank you – have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Leave a Comment