Monday, December 18, 2023

The Best Christmas Gift I May Never Receive

 Last night, my husband asked what I wanted for Christmas. To say he's a last minute Charlie would be an understatement. I've been waiting and waiting for an indicator that he's been thinking about something special for me, but I know he hasn't. In the past, he's gone out on Christmas Eve trying to find that special something but has come home discouraged. So this year, I'm going to tell him what I really want and it's something I don't think he could ever give me. 

I've thought about it long and hard. The gift that would mean the most to me isn't a tangible gift but it is a life long gift and one I'd treasure forever. What I really want for Christmas is for the post cancer PTSD and anxiety I suffer to completely disappear. 

I never thought I'd suffer with either one, but for the past few years, it seems to be getting worse. Loud noises startle me, sudden movements freak me out. I get anxious in public venues and have found myself longing for the safety and security of my home. 

I first began to experience anxiety after surgery to remove the breast cancer. I didn't seek medical help but realize now, I should have. 

When my sleep became affected, I talked with my primary care physician who prescribed an anti-anxiety medication. He did offer a stern warning -the medication, he said, is a controlled substance. That frightened me, but the doctor assured me, if I took it only at night before bed, I should be okay. 

The medicine has definitely helped with sleep but there is a draw back. Since it's a controlled substance, I have to report in to my doc every three months. It's required by law, so I do it. 

Oh how I wish I'd find a magic gift under my tree this year! I wish I'd find a stocking filled with perpetual peace and tranquility. Attached to the gift, I'd love to find a note stating I'll never be overcome with fear or worry again, especially relating to a recurrence of cancer. 

There's a place in my chest, just above the initial location of the breast cancer. Whenever my clothing brushes against it, or my fingers touch it as I'm bathing, I wince in pain. It's so tender. I don't want to think it might be another growing tumor, but I can't help it. 

I've had so many scans over the past few years, surely they couldn't have missed anything important, could they? I'd like to think not, but the fear in me says it's possible. 

My husband doesn't know what I'd truly like to receive this year for Christmas and I won't tell him. I know it would break his heart knowing he couldn't fulfill my wish. 

So instead of hoping for something I'll never receive, I've decided to do the next best thing. I've decided to settle for today. I think I can manage to get through one day without being overcome with feelings of anxiety over future what ifs. 

And I prefer to concentrate on giving rather than receiving anyway. I have all the material possessions I could ever need. But if I could find a way to get what I really want for Christmas, I'd take it in a heartbeat. Who wouldn't want a life free of fear, anxiety, and worry? Those three emotions can steal a person's joy so fast. 

I'm glad my husband loves me enough to want to give me a special gift. It means a lot to know he wants to please me, so I'll try to think of a close second and give him the suggestion tonight after dinner. I've always wanted to learn to play guitar, maybe guitar lessons would be a constructive way of managing stress. And if I learn to play well enough, I could use the music to soothe my savage soul. And if not, I guess I could torture a few of the neighborhood cats with my instrumental failures. 

Thank goodness Christmas only comes once a year. Trying to think of the perfect gift is hard especially when the gift is for me. Maybe I'll just tell him to surprise me and see what he comes up with. Yes, I think that might be the best option instead of waiting for the gift I want but won't receive.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Christmas Blues

 It's 8 days until Christmas and I'm feeling a little blue. This year won't be a traditional Christmas for me. I don't like it when my normal routine is disturbed and this year, it's already started out weird. 

I love Christmas and having all of my children and grandchildren around, but that hasn't happened for years now. Since my kids are all grown and have families of their own, they make plans that don't always include us. It makes me sad. I guess I'm stuck in the Walton world. 

If only things could be the way I'd like them to be! I'd have a beautiful, snowy Christmas morning and after a quick breakfast, I'd hear a knock at the door. I'd open it and one of my children would be there - hugs, smiles, and laughter would ensue. As we'd usher in each family group, the house would be filled with chatter. It would feel cozy and warm. My heart would swell with excitement. I'd need no other gift than the gift of presence - their presence, which I am already missing this year. 

My middle daughter came to celebrate an early Christmas with us yesterday and while it was nice, it was odd. It was too quiet and quick. I felt lonely and disappointed when they left and wanted a do over, but I won't get it. 

I won't get to see my oldest son at all this year. He and his family will gather at their house and have their own celebration. I miss them so much and wish we could see them, but am trying my best to understand I have to let go. 

My oldest daughter lives in Texas. It's too far for them to come home to be with us. We'll probably get a FaceTime call sometime on Christmas day, but it's not the same. I miss them, too. 

I do have a consolation prize, however. My youngest daughter will join us for Christmas this year. At least I'll have one of my kiddos with us on the actual day and that will help things feel a little more normal, but it'll still be different. 

I guess I should be happy I'll have one child with me. There are so many of my friends who'll be spending Christmas alone this year. I can't even begin to imagine what that feels like. My heart goes out to them. 

Why do our expectations seem to be so high at Christmas? I don't like it, not one little bit. 

I'll do my best to smile and be happy on the outside this holiday, but on the inside, I'll be crying. 

Sometimes I wonder if something is really wrong with me. When I got married and had my family, I always made a special effort to go over and visit my parents on Christmas day. It was a joyous time of celebration and we made so many precious memories with my siblings and their families. Why do kids not value that sense of family any more? 

Our world is so different these days. 

I can't help thinking of Jamie Lee Curtis in the movie, Christmas with the Kranks. Her husband, Tim Allen, talks her into taking a vacation for Christmas since their daughter won't be able to come home for the holidays. After pondering it, she finally agrees. As her excitement builds and she prepares for the trip, she gets a big surprise. Her daughter calls with a change of plans. Immediately, she shifts gears and tries to pull together all of the familiar traditions she loves. It ends up being a neighborhood effort to bring a sweet holiday to fruition and maybe that's what I'm secretly hoping for...

My husband keeps telling me to take one day at a time, but it's so hard. He asked me earlier today what I wanted for Christmas. I told him I don't need a thing. The blues have hit me hard this year. I don't want anything for Christmas except my family all together under one roof. Is that too much to ask?

And while I'm being a whiney little brat, I can't help but think about two friends of mine. One's father has just found out his cancer from over 20 years ago has come back. The other, who was diagnosed the same year as me, has had to fight continually for the past 9+ years. She's gone through so much and is still having difficulty. I'm sure both of them would wish for wellness this Christmas and I'd love to see them get it, but I still want my family around me. I can't help it. I need them. 

I don't want to be this way, really, I don't. Christmas isn't about what I want. It's about Jesus, but it sure would be nice to celebrate His birth with the ones I love. Maybe next year.

Friday, December 15, 2023

Genie in a bottle

 I just recently watched a cute movie called Genie with Melissa McCarthy. It's your typical genie movie with a few twists. Instead of only getting three wishes, the guy that opens the box gets unlimited wishes. At first, he does what anyone else would do. He wishes for extravagant material possessions, but then, he wishes for more meaningful things like healed relationships. In the end, he makes a special wish for Melissa (the genie.) It was an entertaining feel good movie. 

As I watched, I wondered what I'd do if I were in that situation. Of course, we all know genies aren't real, but I remember the first TV genie that every impacted my life was on the show I Dream of Jeannie. Way back in 1969, I used to love watching Barbara Eden as Larry Hackman gave her specific instructions on what to do. I thought it was hilarious when she'd cross her arms, and purposefully nod her head with a "Your wish is my command, master." 

Boy, did I want my own personal genie! 

I'd still like to have one today. If I had a genie, I'd never have to fold clothes or wash dishes again. I could travel to Timbuktu and back in the blink of an eye. I could have all the things I ever dreamed of and then some. It would be amazing and also scary. 

Right now, people are getting ready to celebrate Christmas. They're buying gifts for loved ones and doing their best to choose appropriate, meaningful gifts. For some, it's an extremely fun time but for others, it can be exasperating and overwhelming. 

If I could have one special gift under the tree on Christmas morning, I think I'd like to have a genie. Of course, I'd prefer to have the type Melissa McCarthy was - one who offered unlimited wishes as opposed to the tiny limit of 3. But if I could only have 3, I think I'd wish for all cancers to be eradicated, for homelessness to end, and of course, for world peace. 

I wonder if my genie would find those wishes too complicated to grant. I'd like to think she'd have the power to bring those to fruition, but I guess I'll never know since genies aren't real. 

This Christmas, I'm going to do my best to be grateful for the life I have now. Yes, it's drastically different than the one I had in 2014, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, but it's still good. 

I'd like to think we all have the power to grant a few wishes now and then, especially for those going through the various stages of cancer. We might not be able to give exact wishes, but we could come pretty doggone close. 

We can make phone calls and write letters. We can help transport families to see loved ones or offer to give rides to medical appointments. We can take someone's list and do the shopping for them. There are so many things we could do to be little genies. 

And while we can't grant the big wish - the take away cancer one or remove the pain and suffering one, we can do something meaningful. 

Every person is blessed with a particular ability. Some of us have great listening skills, others can give the gift of quality time. Whatever your genie superpower may be, don't wait to be called upon to use it. Go ahead and throw some kind wish granting to the wind and see where your generosity lands. Remember, it'll come back to you one day, too. It may not be in exactly the same way, but you'll receive a blessing of some sort. And that's all that really matters anyway, isn't it? It's more blessed to give than to receive, just like the old saying goes.

Monday, December 11, 2023

Well, it's about time for an update, don't ya think?

 I'm lax. A slacker. Not really, but it feels good to say I've kind of forgotten about my blog lately and the reason is a fairly good one, I think. Life has been going well and by that I mean pretty normal. 

Normal is hard for a person affected by cancer to ever say because once cancer has come into your life, nothing is ever normal again. 

On my fridge hangs a schedule of future medical appointments. I'm happy to say there's only one cancer related appointment among that list and that appointment is in March. 

How'd that happen???

It seems I've been under constant surveillance for so long and now, I'm on annual watch. It seems like I'm a recently freed prisoner or something. And it feels weird - kind of like the safety net has been pulled out from under me. But, I'm thankful. Very, very thankful. 

I can never forget about cancer though. Every time I look in the mirror, I'm reminded of how it changed my life. To this day, almost 10 years post diagnosis, I have no feeling on the right side of my chest. The long incision where they sliced away my breast tissue damaged nerve endings and those haven't rejoined. When I touch my skin there, I can feel a slight pressure, but nothing more. It's an odd feeling. 

I've kind of gotten used to being flat chested. At home, I don't wear my boobs because they're cumbersome and irritating. When I go out, I do. Mostly, to help myself fit in. I don't want to be stared at because I'm different. When I wear my prostheses, no one knows I had breast cancer, unless I tell them. 

My husband and my family know they may or may not see me with boobs on and they've grown to accept it. But now, my youngest daughter has a new boyfriend and he isn't familiar with my health journey. I've given her permission to tell him about it in hopes he'll understand and accept me with or without my female anatomy. I don't want him to be uncomfortable wondering about me if I don't look feminine, especially when he doesn't know me well enough yet. And when I meet his family one day, I'm hoping they won't know my secret. 

It's hard to keep a think like that hidden but I feel it's my right to share or not share. 

Sometimes, it feels like this has all been a bad dream.

I made it through Thanksgiving this year without balling my eyes out. In the past, I always cried as I remembered all God has brought me through. I definitely don't take any of that for granted, it's just this year, I'd come to a place of contentment. 

Now Christmas is upon us and I can't help but feel nostalgic. As I put up decorations, I think about all the people I've known who are no longer with us. Many of those were friends who fought cancer hard and lost. It breaks my heart to think about their valiant fights, but each of them possessed a bravery I can only hope to mirror one day. 

It's nice that cancer isn't my main focus any more. I still can't believe how much territory I gave it those first few years. 

There are still some friends who're fighting hard to make it through cancer. Seeing their struggle makes me so sad. I wonder why God has been so gracious to me and yet, they aren't as blessed. I have to remind myself daily, I could be in their position just as easily as they could be in mine. 

I never want to take a day for granted. 

That's one gift cancer has given me - the gift of gratitude. I used to assume too many things. Now I don't. 

One thing I've learned recently is I don't need cancer as a convenient excuse anymore. 

Yes, I still experience side effects from radiation - my right lung was damaged and sometimes I struggle to breathe properly. I do get tired more easily than I used to, but that could also be because I'm older now than when first diagnosed. I still have body image issues on the bad days, but usually, I can push through them. Most of all, I'm just glad I'm still around. 

I love getting to watch sunrises and sunsets. I love listening to instrumental Christmas classics, I love smelling oranges or cookies fresh from the oven. I love seeing the wrinkles on my husband's face when he smiles a big smile and that twinkle in his eyes when he's happy. I could be missing all those things...

I don't know if cancer will ever rear its ugly head in my life again, I pray not, but if it does, I'll worry about that then. Until that day, I'm moving forward. I'm living my life to the fullest and I'm really glad I can. 

If it ain't one thing, it's another!

  Trying to smile through the pain I've been AWOL for a while now, so this post will more than likely be longer than most. I don't e...