It is difficult for me to maintain my zen when people tell me when I can and cannot begin celebrating the holiday season. I want to say, “I am not sure when or how you became the holiday police, but call me an outlaw because my stockings are already hung by the chimney with care and Mariah Carey Christmas music is generally playing in my household and it is before Thanksgiving. I guess you might as well read me my Miranda rights and lock me up, but this is me and I am celebrating right NOW.” I am such a little holiday-rebel.
Two years ago, when I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer at the age of 28, I started chemotherapy the week after Thanksgiving. I subsequently lost my hair the week before Christmas. My mom, sister and I scrambled frantically around town a few days before Christmas, while I legitimately looked like Bozo the Clown, desperately trying to find me a wig that worked so I wouldn’t have to open my Christmas gifts, and play with my niece and nephew around the Christmas tree, bald. To say that the holidays were different that year would be an understatement. I didn’t know how much time I had left, I was fighting for my life, and I didn’t know if I would make it to the following holiday season.
The holidays are a time of happiness and celebration, bringing family members together from near and far to enjoy each other’s company. The holidays also have the potential to be a very stressful time: planning, cooking, cleaning and preparing for visitors. I see the stress build in those around me. I see the holidays turn from something pleasant to something anxiety-laden. I can’t help but step back and sprinkle a dose of perspective here and there. I can’t help but be reminded where I was two years ago around this time, and how thankful I am this holiday season JUST TO BE HERE. How thankful we all should be JUST TO BE HERE.
Because of what I have been through, the holidays have become more special to me than ever before. Now, that is saying something because I have always been a Christmas-crazy person and I can admit that. I have always been madly in love with the holiday season and all that it entails. Now, after fighting the fight I was faced with, I realize even more just how incredibly precious these special holiday moments are—all of them. I had my year and a half scans last week and the results were wonderful—I remain cancer-free. When I got the news I was ecstatic because I knew that news allowed me to simply enjoy the holidays and participate in (at least) one more memorable Christmas season. What an unbelievable gift that is. Through the craziness of preparing for the holidays, people tend to forget that. They do not tend to stop what they are doing and realize how truly lucky they are to be picking out the ingredients for Thanksgiving dinner. They forget how blessed they are to get to cozy up with friends and family with a delicious treat and hot beverage and watch a Christmas movie. I am writing to urge you not to forget. I am here to urge you to take a second while you are in that aisle in Target picking out holiday-themed paper towels to think, “Wow I am blessed to be here, to be alive, and to experience the holidays another time.”
I have lost several friends over the last year. Most of them to cancer. Many to breast cancer. I remember them around this time of year more than ever. What they wouldn’t give to be stressed because they had to clean up the guest room for holiday visitors. What they wouldn’t give to have to find the time to bake a pie or two. What they wouldn’t give to pick out a Christmas tree with their family, to decorate it with loved ones, to throw it out when the holidays are over. What they would not give to be able to experience just one more holiday season surrounded by those they love.
Therefore, for those of you who refuse to indulge in listening to a Christmas song or watching a Christmas movie pre-Thanksgiving, more power to you. Seriously, I am not going to judge. If that is how you prefer to do things, go ahead with your bad self. I can absolutely appreciate a person with self-control. All I ask is that you allow those that may have gotten the holiday bug not in your preferred chronological order, to indulge themselves in a little pre-Thanksgiving Christmas spirit.