Friday, December 16, 2011

Cancer Changes EVERYTHING! Including Christmas

When "cancer" enters a life, that life is rocked and that world is turned upside-down and inside-out. It's wrung like a drenched towel until all the soul has dripped out. But the towel is still there waiting to absorb new life and a new "whatever is coming next." People, including our nearest and dearest, just don't understand the changes we go through and how can they when we don't understand them ourselves.But we are blessed and we know it in ways we never would have without cancer.

Our physical bodies change; our faith can be rocked and some people will turn away from God while others run to God, either way, our faith walk changes; our wardrobes change; our energy levels change; our temperaments and attitudes change; our priorities and values change; our self-worth changes. There are more changes. Any aspect of life you can think of, changes. We may not admit to any or all of these changes, but they are there nonetheless in the recesses of our minds and spirits. But we are blessed and we know it.

With all these changes come changes in how we relate to other people. Even if they don't catch on, we're different. We may, or may not, shout at them "Don't you get it?" But we think it. We want our family and friends to understand, but unless they've had "cancer" attached to them, they don't.

If you're reading this and you do not and never have had cancer, please do NOT say "I understand" because, trust me, you do not.

We are in holiday mode around the world right now. I'm in the USA and we've just had Thanksgiving and are hurtling toward Christmas. Much of the American culture started "celebrating" (or should I say "buying") Christmas a month or more ago.

I haven't put up the first decoration. Seriously. Ask my neighbors and I live on Main Street! I could care less about the decorations and shopping. I don't care about the parades and crowds and traffic. I sincerely don't give a fig about Christmas feasts and parties.

But my love affair with "Christmas" is the best it has ever been. That's what cancer does. I think it's probably all cancers that affect a person with it like that, but it may be a little more intense with those of us with melanoma. See, with melanoma, even those of us who were diagnosed at stage 1 a few months ago, know we could be dead from it by this time next year. I'm stage 3b. This time next year I could be in the literal fight for my life, I could be dead, or I may still be stage 3b.

When you know your factual existence can change, due to cancer, at any time, things ...well, they change. Holy days, like Christmas, take on a much more richer, deeper meaning. At least for me. And I'm not alone.

I find that with each passing Christmas, and this year marks my fourth since my diagnosis, I want to get more and more "to the heart of the matter." Decorations, shopping, and much fanfare and pomp and circumstance just don't cut it for me. I want hungry people fed, not those of us with much getting more.

I want a Christmas that I think Jesus would be pleased to share with me and I just don't see that in my surroundings. I want people who don't stand a chance of having a Merry Christmas to have one anyway because they matter to Jesus. Shouldn't they matter to me?

Yesterday's local paper had the story of a young teen in the next county over, who broke into a school looking for food because he was hungry. He cut up his hands and stopped what he was doing but he was caught and will be charged. That story and his plight HAUNT THE MESS OUT OF ME!!!!

Yet, every town has people, young people and elderly people going to bed every night and waking up every morning not "hungry," but HUNGRY!!!! That just shouldn't be!!!! That's not what Christmas is about. Don't we see that?

Many don't. Many will read that story and instead of compassion for him and outrage at ourselves we'll feel outrage for that youth and want the book thrown at him. I'm not condoning what he did, but I can't condone us either. I'm pretty sure Jesus would rather we feed him than book him.

That's what cancer has done to me. It has forced me to look beyond myself and my own little world and want to be part of changing the bigger world because that's what I have a gut feeling Jesus wants me to do. Wants US to do.

Don't say you understand if you don't. Melanoma has caused me to open my eyes to a more realistic set of priorities and realize this world isn't about me at all. Yet, I am beyond blessed and I know it.

My time here is short and this may be my last Christmas on earth and maybe not. We can all say the same thing though. Melanoma just brings that truth closer home and makes it real. I want to share my presence with family and friends, not merely presents. I want to share real presents with those in need and not just be a mere presence passing through this world. 

I am blessed beyond words and I know it. I just want to share the blessing with those who really need it.

That's how I need to show that I am grateful.