Cancer Doesn't Take a Christmas Break
Christmas has always been such a magical time for me. Growing up I was so excited for Santa to come, unable to get to sleep the night before, anticipating the sound of the reindeer’s hooves hitting my roof. When I learnt the unfortunate news that Santa wasn’t real (sorry kids) Christmas was still a beautiful time for me to honour my religious beliefs at midnight mass and spend the day with my family.
Everything about Christmas is exciting: the buying of presents for your loved ones, spending the day having a big lunch with the family, taking out the JetSki, jumping in the pool, sunbaking and catching up with friends that normally work 24/7. Everyone has allocated time off work and is able to relax and have a great time on their well-deserved break.
Unfortunately, cancer doesn’t take a Christmas break, and I’m contemplating the very harsh reality that this may be the first Christmas I’ve ever had cancer.
It’s a strange coincidence but every cancer diagnosis I’ve had, has gone into remission before Christmas. The latest I’ve ever achieved remission was December 3rd and have spent every Christmas in absolute gratitude for my recently recovered health. I feel it has almost added to the magical-ness of the holiday season because my hope and sparking light was always so recently renewed.
As this year slips away I can’t help but feel a little pain in my heart to know this Christmas will be the first tainted by the darkness of cancer.
When everyone clocks off their last day of work before the holiday break, cancer remains in my neck. There’s nothing I can do about this and no amount of wishing and frustration will make the tumour go away in the next 2 months. As much as I would like cancer to sub-out, I know it’s not going to with me anxiously watching the calendar and willing it to leave. I’m learning to be okay with change and accepting of reality, but a huge sadness hangs around for me knowing that in the back of my mind cancer still lurks.
On our sunny Christmas day, there will be one dark cloud in the sky that tries to scare me saying “is this your last Christmas? Remember you have cancer.”
I always feel that cancer sucks the life and happiness out of my days, but I’m coming to realise a big player in that game is my own mind allowing this to happen. Instead, I am choosing to see the silver linings and work toward having a civil relationship with cancer on Christmas.
When I am shopping for Christmas presents for my friends I will think about the long life I will share with them, and push the black cloud to the side. When I am preparing the Christmas lunch, I won’t think about all the foods I cannot eat because of the cancer, I’ll think about the great conversation I’ll have over lunch with my family who are enjoying the fresh meats and peeled prawns I helped make them. When I’m out on the JetSki with my cousins I won’t envy how carefree the other people are riding their Ski’s and driving their boats. I’ll take in all the surroundings, feel the sun on my skin, let the wind knot my hair and welcome the splash of refreshing salt water onto my face.
When I open my presents from my family and friends I won’t allow my fearful thoughts to tell me I may not be well for long enough to use the gifts. I’ll be completely present and if anything, more willing to use/wear the present and make the most of my day to day life, not saving for a rainy day as I used to.
I have come to realise that time is a social construct. There’s no reason to punish myself more for having cancer on a widely-celebrated holiday that falls on a date before my body’s had the chance to properly heal. How was my body to know the cut-off date for healing was December 25th? And why should it be? Who’s to say I won’t be in remission by July, and who’s to say I won’t be still living with cancer by next Christmas? All I can control is my day to day emotions and the reality I create based on my thoughts and actions.
I want to have a great Christmas. I want to buy presents for my loved ones, go to church, eat a fabulous healthy lunch and enjoy the sunshine with my family. I want to make memories that aren’t tainted by fear of the future and I want to feel immense gratitude for all that I have.
So that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
My Christmas will be Merry, despite that annoying black cloud.
My name is Jessica & I’ve heard "you have cancer" three times. No matter how seemingly ‘normal’ the diagnosis becomes, you never get used to it. I beat Hodgkin’s lymphoma at 15 years old and recurrent mucoepidermoid carcinoma just before my 21st birthday. My life motto is "fall down seven times, stand up eight!"