Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Cancer Won't Steal My Christmas

My last post struck a chord with many of my cancer brothers and their loved ones. One comment in a support group rocked me. One guy said that the day he found out he was metastatic, he had to buy new tires for his old car. He remembers what a crisis it was for him to buy tires with a five year warranty. I can relate to that all too well. But another comment, in a different group, from a new friend, put it in perspective.

She said that while she and her husband, who has prostate cancer, are making some changes to deal with the reality of their situation, she also won't let cancer steal her today. She has today with her husband, and she treasures that. Such a beautiful attitude, and one that I need to get better at having myself.

I've been guilty of letting my doubts about my future steal some of my joy for today. My hesitation at buying the LED spiral tree, pictured above, was all about not knowing how many Christmases I'd be able to set it up. But now I realize that it's more important to enjoy it now than worry about that.

Our front lawn slopes to the east, so the tree tilts a little, as does my Christmas mood. But it shines brightly, setting off the rest of our lights, just as I hoped it would. And it lifts my spirits when I look at it, just as I hoped it would.

None of us are promised tomorrow. We're not even promised five minutes from now, for that matter. My prospects may seem more dire than yours, but none of us knows how much time we have on this planet. The point is not to dwell on what might happen in the future, or on past regrets, but to live in the now.

It's true, I don't know how many more Christmases I have left, but neither do you. Neither do any of us. That only makes it more important to enjoy this Christmas. I don't know if I'll have next Christmas, or the one after that, or the one after that. But I'm pretty sure I'll have this Christmas. So I can't let cancer steal it from me.

Little by little, I've been getting in the mood. The arrival of my spiral tree helped, as illogical as that may seem. The opportunity to sing in a dear friend's Christmas choir also helped tremendously. When you've been in and put together as many church Christmas programs as I have, something's missing from Christmas when you drop out completely.

As a long-time choir director, the opportunity to direct the biggest song in the program with my friend singing the solo was such a blessing. I told our friend that I wasn't sure I would ever get to direct a choir again, because I'd have to put the whole thing together. I don't have the energy to do that anymore. I'm done running the show. But she gave me the chance to step in and direct a really fun arrangement of O Holy Night, and my only responsibility was making sure I knew the song well enough to direct it. If you want to see the video, check my Facebook timeline. It's pretty awesome.

And that's not all she did for me. She also let me speak to the choir about my illness, and tell them what a blessing and privilege it was to be part of their choir for a while. After I shared with them, she called on the choir to surround me, lay hands on me and pray for me. She led the prayer, and there's nobody else I'd rather have pray with me. This woman has a direct line to God.

There were two services that morning, and the prayer time happened right before the first service. So I was very emotional during that service. She was always telling the choir to smile, but I didn't smile much in that first service. I was too busy crying. Christmas was starting to come closer for me, and not just on the calendar.

I've finally started listening to Christmas music, but I have yet to watch a Christmas movie. I'm just not there yet. So I guess I'm still letting cancer steal some of my today.

Being a cancer patient consumes our identity if we let it. In a post from last April, What Am I? I said, "Like many, if not most cancer patients, I feel like that's what I am. That's all I am. It's the entire focus of my life. Everything else fades in comparison." I still feel that way, but that attitude can steal our todays.

Living in the now. Because this moment is all any of us have. I believe that when we live in the now, we come close to what Heaven will be. In Eternity, there is no past or future. Time does not exist. Time and space are part of the physical universe, and Heaven is an altogether different plane of existence. In Heaven, there is only an eternal present. An everlasting now. So when we live in the now in this life, rather than letting past hurts, resentments, regrets or mistakes preoccupy us, or letting doubts and worries about the future weigh us down, we experience a taste of Heaven here and now.

So I won't let cancer steal my Christmas. I won't let it steal my today, despite what it might do to my tomorrows. Today I am blessed, and loved, and well on my way to getting in the Christmas spirit. I might even watch a Christmas movie tonight. #waroncancer


  1. Thanks for that reminder of living in the "today"!
    Elf would be a good movie choice :-)
    Merry Christmas to you and Sharon my brother!!!!

    1. Merry Christmas to you and yous, Adam! But no Will Ferrell!!! Make mine Polar Express.

  2. The book I wrote, "Living With Uncertainty and Still Enjoying Life" is in the final stages of being published. I, too, decided not to let cancer steal my focus. I learned to enjoy each day and put my focus on what God put into my life to enjoy. My stage four cancer takes a back seat to my focus on my blessed life. Cancer is there, but I stubbornly refuse to give it dominion over my mind. It may end up taking my body, but I stubbornly refuse to let it take my mind or hope in God for what he provides in this life and later in eternity.