Christmas is a special time of the year for many people. When you add cancer to the mix, it becomes special in a whole different way.
It’s hard to believe, but in 2010 there were 20 people at our family Christmas and less than five people (including myself) knew that I was undergoing tests to see if I had cancer. I decided not to tell everyone, because I didn’t actually know if I had cancer. At this point there was just a suspicion. Besides, it just didn’t seem right to sit down to a meal, tap on a glass and say, “Before we begin, I have an announcement to make. I’m having tests to see if I have cancer. Please don’t let this bother you in any way. Now, if you don’t mind, would somebody please pass the potatoes?”
I wanted to wait until I was sure I had cancer before I told any more family members. In my mind there was still a slim chance that it was all a mistake. I also didn’t want the news of my current cancer scare to be forever associated with Christmas. I like to think I was being considerate, but maybe I just wanted everything to be normal, if only for a day.
In February I was diagnosed with breast cancer. That diagnosis was quickly followed by a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation… the party pack of treatments. I had my surgery in March, finished my last chemo treatment in August and had my last radiation treatment in November. In December, other than taking medication to keep the cancer from returning, I was pretty much free and clear. I couldn’t have asked for a better Christmas present.
This Christmas was a vastly different than the previous one. Instead of having the possibility of cancer hanging over my head, I had the hope that I would never have to experience cancer again.
2012 to 2015
The next cancer experience was not my own. My friend, Lise, had cancer for many years, even before 2012, but this was the year when she told me her cancer had reached stage 4. Since she lived on the east coast of Canada and I lived in Ontario, I talked to her almost daily but only saw her once a year. Each year I wondered if it would be my last visit. In 2015, I saw Lise in July and she died in August. Her journey had come to an end. Now, each Christmas, my thoughts about her become even stronger. I have a Christmas ornament that she gave me and I take time to hold it for a while before I put it on the tree. This ornament allows me to feel close to her.
Unfortunately, we all know someone who is no longer with us and Christmas drives that emptiness home.
This Christmas, my cancer came back into play. Fortunately, it had nothing to do with a recurrence. This time Christmas and cancer were tied together for a good reason. In the years since my cancer experience and the death of my friend, I wrote and published a book that I believe will provide cancer patients with the information I wished I had when I was taking my own journey.
My brother has been selling my books and asked me to bring more copies to our Christmas family gathering. He told me that his clients were asking for signed copies. Who would have thought, so many Christmases ago, that I would be sitting at a table and autographing books?
And that’s the whole point. We don’t know what’s coming...good or bad. We just have to be ready. We have to be able to recognize opportunities to make a difference in not only your own life but in the lives of others.
Over 30-years of writing experience, about 10 years as a cancer survivor, and a lifetime purveyor of wit and laughter.
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