Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Special Christmas

Fifteen years ago I thought would be my last Christmas. At the young age of 21, just shortly after my birthday, I was told I had the C word - cancer. I think that is all I heard the doctor say and then I was pulled into a vision of my own funeral on a blustery grey fall day. The somber news made it a very difficult and heart renching day which I was totally unprepared for. Everything happened in a such fast whirlwind that I was hurled into the testing phase and then began chemotherapy treatment.

Somewhere along the line there was a misunderstanding or maybe the status of things changed. In December just before Christmas I went to my treatment appointment thinking I was getting close to having it be over with only to discover I was not even half way through. I was completely disheartened. On top of that it was the worst treatment cycle I had been through leaving my body and emotions totally sapped and beaten.

I must have went home with my mom after she came up to visit as I would have been too sick to make the 3 hour drive home myself. I opted to stay in Marquette, MI for treatments where I had been going to college, rented an apartment, and could be close to all my friends whereas my parents had moved down to Wisconsin the year prior.

When I came home that Christmas everyone seemed distracted, in a lackluster mood, and the tree had not been decorated yet. Despite feeling really sick, I was determined that if this was to be my last Christmas then it was to be a good Christmas. My mind was set to make the best of it no matter what. My sister helped with the spirit of things by trimming the tree with me. It is a special moment I will always remember.

As good fortune would have it, my sister moved out here in November of this year and we were able to partake in holiday events together here which we have not been able to do yet. Early in December my sister joined me in the search for that perfect tree and to lug it home. We have not hunted for a tree together since I lived at home and went on the annual tree hunt on our property in Upper Michigan with my dad and brother. At the time I must have been 16 0r 17 and she was just a little girl of 6 or 7. And it is the prettiest tree we have had. In fact it is Harley's favorite this year.

The trimming was a team effort but my sister really did most of the decorating by putting my gazillion ornaments on it. Harley did his part by putting it up the same day we brought it home and then later stringing the lights around it. I adorned it with the angel, ribbon, beads, poinsettas, bows, and the few ornaments I was indecisive of where to place. My sister on the other hand went to town hanging all of the memorable ornaments I have collected over the years from family, friends, and my own gathering.

So thanks Michelle! Harley and I really appreciate it and enjoy the tree! It was nice to spend time with you decorating it again and especially on this occasion.

The day after Christmas we had a nice dinner and celebration here at the cabin with Michelle and DJ. This year is an especially significant year for both DJ and I as this year is DJ's first Christmas as a cancer survivor and I not only my 15th year after cancer but also my first year as a brain surgery survivor.

I would also like to acknowledge my friends Patty and KC who are celebrating their first year as a cancer survivors too. To all of the cancer survivors... Congratulations! To all of the family and friends.... thank you for being there for us. For those who are currently fighting, hang in there and keep looking ahead. For those who are loved ones left behind... my thoughts and prayers are with you that you have the comfort and peace of mind that you will meet again one day. Until then, know that your loved ones who passed on appreciated you and want you to make the best of life while you are here.

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