It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…. But I’m not exactly feeling it.
Last years potted Christmas tree has been dragged inside, the dead branches removed and the foliage still a little dull from a year of neglect. This year I decided to make crepe paper flowers to decorate the tree, partly because of my immobility post breast reconstruction and partly because I was hoping to create a little Christmas spirit.
The idea of Christmas is mostly warm and fuzzy, however it seems to be mostly about one thing… the presents. The unwrapping ritual usually commences early morning with a delighted frenzy. The obligatory Bing Crosby tunes will play out in the background with a nod to all things wholesome now lost, wrapping paper will go flying, and my husband and I will be yelling… “Read the card first” over and over again.
There is something quite disturbing about the amount of stuff some kids get these days…including my lot. The magic is long gone and has been replaced by a culture of consuming- a generation of mall kids. For some families shopping has become entertainment, a way to pass the time, to use, to dispose, to replace, to upgrade or to out do.
For me the festive season is also fraught with melancholy, a time when I’m drawn to ponder over my last year. In December last year my father in law passed away after a long struggle with bowel cancer treatment and only days after his funeral I was recovering from a lumpectomy and sentinel lymph node dissection in hospital. It was an emotional month and I mostly remember a fairly constant stream of tears.
Christmas day last year was full of despair, I was afraid of the chemotherapy and the treatment that I would come to endure. I cried in my bedroom between lunch courses and touched up my make up ready for act 2, 3 and 4. We celebrated Christmas lunch on our deck, clinked wine glasses and toasted to better days. My husband would dutifully fling every empty bottle of wine over his shoulder from the deck and it would land with an anticipated thump onto the grass. Much cheering would ensure with each bottle toss. It was a stunning Sydney summer day followed by a late afternoon tropical thunderstorm- I danced in the rain and tasted the rain drops in my mouth with my clothes getting drenched. I was drunk on the joy of being fully aware of the moment. My daily mindful meditation practice had seemed to slow time, I felt connected- plugged in.
It’s now approaching four weeks since my Diep Breast Reconstruction and I am slowly starting to move about more, however it’s sill quite painful and uncomfortable. I do know from experience that the body has an uncanny ability to heal itself, holes in the skin miraculously close up, stitches heal and pain slowly subsides. It seems with cancer there aren’t any Get Out Of Jail cards being handed out. It feels like a cancer cloud is always looming, at times it hangs overhead as a reminder of the ‘What if the cancer comes back’? Or it often looms in the distance barely out of sight but I know it’s there hanging around. A lifetime of tests and monitoring lay ahead, a constant reminder of the cloud.
Just when I thought I was getting closer to moving forward I got a red flag from my surgeon. It seems they found ‘something’ on my liver during a CT Angiogram. Gulp. Of course I got my Google Doctor on and Googled the hell out of the medical report. I searched for statistics on life expectancy for metastatic Breast Cancer, read articles about the grim survival rates for liver cancer and started to think about the Funeral Playlist I have on my iPhone. Yes, it is odd but I’ve had a Funeral Playlist for about 5 years – I always figured if I ever checked out I would at least have decent tunes, even if I wouldn’t be around to enjoy it.
The moment I surrendered myself to that search engine I pretty much knew that I was about to go for a ride on a rollercoaster without wheels. Looks like this Christmas will continue to have a little cloud hanging about. I see my Oncologist in a few days who I’m told will refer me to another medical oncologist for further testing. Gulp again. Fingers crossed it’s nothing, the playlist still needs some tweaking.
I plan to have a laughter filled Christmas day, shared with friends and family. This time the cloud might be a little too familiar and too close for comfort but I figure I can always open an umbrella or dance in the rain like last year should the cancer cloud decide to burst. I can’t help but to think that I should be so happy that this year will finally be behind me, that I can now move forward and not look back. The little fearful twinge of metastatic cancer might rear it’s head from time to time, but for now I’m going to focus on the present and try to spend my days living mindfully.