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5 reasons why Friendsgiving is secretly the best fall holiday there is.

Friends are your family by choice. You should celebrate them.

5 reasons why Friendsgiving is secretly the best fall holiday there is.

You've heard of Friendsgiving, right?

That's Friendsgiving (not to be confused with America's day of giving thanks or that one time you and your friends gathered to watch every single Thanksgiving episode of "Friends"). Photo via iStock.


As the name implies, Friendsgiving is just like Thanksgiving only celebrated with friends, not family. I'm a sucker for celebrations that involve food and friends, and any day that lets me celebrate both at once, so Friendsgiving is one of my favorite holidays (although — yes, Mom — I definitely love Thanksgiving, too).

But because Friendsgiving often gets overlooked, here are five reasons you should celebrate Friendsgiving too:

1. Friendsgiving fills a void for people who'd rather not spend the holiday with family.

Thanksgiving can be a very stressful, anxiety-inducing day. Many people have complicated family relationships and issues they're not ready to discuss with a table of people. And for some of us, those messy family dynamics are a deal-breaker (and rightfully so).

Photo via iStock.

For, say, an LGBTQ person whose parents aren't fully accepting or someone dating a person of a different race who has ... let's go with "old school" (*cough* racist *cough*) ... family members, Thanksgiving can be nothing short of a painful affair. So it makes sense that they'd want to skip it altogether.

But Friendsgiving? Much different. You're with the family you choose.

As Kat Kinsman wrote for CNN's Eatocracy in 2013, friends are just easier:

"We picked each other. ... We each know how to make ourselves happy, and are eager to share these best and brightest parts of ourselves, whether they're traditional dishes, blessings, stories and rituals, or something that struck our fancy this year that we're eager to give."

2. Friendsgiving is for eating whatever foods you want. And its usually done potluck-style.

Alfredo pizza fan? Go for it. Pad thai with shrimp? YES. Dessert first? Why not?

If you're not the meat-and-potatoes type that salivates over a more conventional Thanksgiving meal, Friendsgiving might be for you. Mix it up with your friends. Add variety to the table. Live a little! If you ask me, it's easier to swap in new dishes with trusting buddies than to convince Uncle Pat there's nothing to fear about chicken curry.

Photo via iStock.

And here's where your kitchen-savvy friends come in. Because with Friendsgiving, everyone brings their culinary A-game. (And bonus points if your friends come from various backgrounds and have different cultures/traditions/unique takes on the holidays to share.)

Sure, some families already do this for Thanksgiving and divvy up food responsibilities. But with Friendsgiving, it's the standard. Jessica Ferri, a Brooklyn-based writer who's hosted Friendsgiving since 2009 with her husband, says it's part what of makes the day so special.

"I really love that it gets all my friends cooking," she told Upworthy, noting that as host, she takes on the turkey every year, but friends bring plenty of other dishes. "Some of [my friends] are incredible cooks."

This is evidence of Jessica's Friendsgiving. Take me there. Now. Photo courtesy of Jessica Ferri, used with permission.

This way, there's not just one person in the kitchen who's overly stressed, sweating and panting (and possibly setting things on fire), like poor Mrs. Doubtfire.

3. Choosing Friendsgiving over Thanksgiving means more money in your already thin wallet (and less relatives to *make note* of that thin wallet, too).

Nearly 47 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. When you figure in gas, airfare, and/or potential hotel stays, it can mean one seriously wounded bank account. (And you still have Hanukkah gifts to buy!)

Photo via iStock.

If you're software consultant Justin Patterson, you might skip the travel altogether because it's just not worth it.

"Thanksgiving can be stressful," he told Upworthy. He's hosting his fourth annual Friendsgiving this year down in Austin, Texas, and says each one just keeps getting "bigger and better."

"Traveling to visit family, dealing with flights [and] traffic, and all of the B.S. that goes along with it can really put a damper on the holiday. With Friendsgiving, it's all about de-stress and relaxation."

If you care about saving money — because it may not be growing on the trees in your neighborhood these days (I've been there) — it's nice to have understanding friends to spend the holiday with, many of whom may be in the same financial boat. And, as noted up in item #1, sometimes family members aren't the most supportive people in the world, and that can reflect in how they view your financial situation too (which, of course, is none of their business in the first place, but you know ... #family).

4. You can celebrate Friendsgiving whenever you want.

Thanksgiving day is pretty official — like, on the federal calendar official. And sure, Friendsgiving can be a direct replacement for Thanksgiving, but it doesn't have to be. Pick a day, any day, and make it happen — as many times (with as many groups of friends) as you want!

Friendsgiving's date flexibility is perfect for, say, a working single parent trying to make ends meet by picking up extra shifts around the holidays or a young person who might have to work Thanksgiving day or (ridiculously) early the next morning.

Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images.

So for someone who doesn't have the concrete 9-5, paid-time-off work life, Friendsgiving's flexibility is a terrific option for the holiday.

But just to be clear: Spending a Thanksgiving with friends doesn't necessarily mean it isn't a real Thanksgiving (as some have argued). I see that point, but here's what I say to that: Not all Thanksgivings are Friendsgivings, but every Friendsgiving can be a Thanksgiving, if you want it to be.

If you're celebrating with friends on Thanksgiving Day and want to call it Thanksgiving, go for it. If you're celebrating with friends on Thanksgiving Day and want to call it Friendsgiving, that works too. But if you're celebrating with family on Thanksgiving ... it's probably weird if you call that Friendsgiving.

5. For those of us who do sign up for a familial Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving gives us another day to celebrate friendship. Because that's important!

As detailed in #1, many people opt out of the traditional Thanksgiving festivities because of (big) problematic family dynamics. But that doesn't mean everyone who chooses to celebrate Thanksgiving is in for a day of pure family bliss.

Photo via iStock.

It's actually fairly normal to feel anxious about the day for a number of reasons. Here are a few that might sound familiar...

  1. You know combative Aunt Ruth will somehow find a way to bring up how climate change isn't real. And, knowing you think differently, she'll certainly find a way to bring you into the conversation.
  2. Your dad worked as a [insert standard corporate job title] for 40 years, and you're a [insert new-age-y digital job title], and he just doesn't get it. So he makes jabs at your work (and thus, you) while passing the gravy.
  3. You know your brother-in-law will crack a Caitlyn Jenner "joke," and you'll undoubtedly ponder the "Is it worth the fight?" question in your head for the next half-hour.
  4. Your grandma's wi-fi broke, and you'll definitely be the one your family volunteers to fix it.

Don't get me wrong — family time can be wonderful. But for those of us who spend half of Thanksgiving Day feeling #blessed because we have the "best family in the world" and the other half trying not to lash out at mom because her narcissism is showing, an additional Friendsgiving holiday can be the perfect November stress-reliever.

After all, friendships are vital — it's important we prioritize our non-blood-related family during the holidays, too.

Friendsgiving may seem like a fluffy pseudo-holiday reserved only for millennials and Instagram.

But it actually does make a big difference to many people. If you feel like you could benefit from a no-stress, affordable, potluck pig-out day of giving thanks with your friends (and who couldn't?), I certainly recommend giving it a try.

Since his first hit single "Keep Your Head Up" in 2011, award-winning multi-platinum recording artist Andy Grammer has made a name for himself as the king of the feel-good anthem. From "Good to Be Alive (Hallelujah)" to "Honey, I'm Good" to "Back Home" and more, his positive, upbeat songs have blared on beaches and at backyard barbecues every summer.

So what does a singer who loves to perform in front of live audiences and is known for uplifting music do during an unexpectedly challenging year of global pandemic lockdown?

He goes inward.

Grammer told Upworthy that losing the ability to perform during the pandemic forced him to look at where his self-worth came from. "I thought I would have scored better, to be honest," he says. "Like, 'Oh, I get it from all the important, right places!' And then it's taken all away in one moment, and you're like, 'Oh, nope, I was getting a lot from that.'

"It's kind of cool to break all the way down and then hopefully put myself back together in a way that's a little more solid," he says.

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Since his first hit single "Keep Your Head Up" in 2011, award-winning multi-platinum recording artist Andy Grammer has made a name for himself as the king of the feel-good anthem. From "Good to Be Alive (Hallelujah)" to "Honey, I'm Good" to "Back Home" and more, his positive, upbeat songs have blared on beaches and at backyard barbecues every summer.

So what does a singer who loves to perform in front of live audiences and is known for uplifting music do during an unexpectedly challenging year of global pandemic lockdown?

He goes inward.

Grammer told Upworthy that losing the ability to perform during the pandemic forced him to look at where his self-worth came from. "I thought I would have scored better, to be honest," he says. "Like, 'Oh, I get it from all the important, right places!' And then it's taken all away in one moment, and you're like, 'Oh, nope, I was getting a lot from that.'

"It's kind of cool to break all the way down and then hopefully put myself back together in a way that's a little more solid," he says.

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Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."