Kylie hanging her favorite ornament

Cancer for Christmas

My wife sat at her laptop furiously compiling the lists for our four girls. She checked it once, then again while travelling to website after website scouring the internet for the best price and delivery. Items were added to baskets and carts checked out at such a frantic pace that I literally felt a warmth emanate from the credit card in my back pocket. Shopping at a fever pitch – Christmas delivered in two days or less. Not like most years, where she disappears for hours on end to find the perfect gift at the mall. She doesn’t have time for that this year because we got cancer for Christmas.

We dlistidn’t ask for it. It wasn’t circled in the wishbook or written in red crayon. No one sat on Santa’s lap and begged for it. No, cancer just showed up unannounced and took our year away.

So rather than spending quality time with each of the girls to weigh their enormous wants against our limited budget as in years past, she spent Saturday morning hunting and pecking under great duress. Do they have the right size? Will it be delivered on time? Is that really something she will use or should we just give her cash?

At some point during the madness, I asked her what she wanted for Christmas. She paused to consider. Her eyes got red and her mouth failed her. She didn’t answer, but I knew. I knew what she wanted the second I asked the question and Amazon.com can’t deliver it, even though we are Prime members. It is the only thing either of us want.

 

We want our baby to stop hurting.

We want her to stop having to face treatments that make her sick and waste away.

We want her legs to work.

We want her to be able to go to school… to run, skip and play like every normal 12 year-old girl should.

We want her to stop coughing.

We want her hair to grow back so people don’t stare at her.

We want normal family time – not garbled, anxiety-laden, jumbled hodge-podge comings and goings where one is sick or two are missing for yet another appointment.

We want to relax and not worry.

We want to give cancer back.

 

I’ll take one of those please, Santa. Any size will do. No need to wrap it up because if you deliver it, the paper won’t last long. Oh, and you can ditch the receipt, I won’t be returning that gift.

I know many people are dealing with heartbreak and struggles. While Christmas is a season of love and giving, it also seems to magnify pain and loss. We don’t have the market cornered on hurt. I realize that.

It’s just that my wife loves Christmas so much. She loves everything about it, from finding the perfect, fattest tree to decorating every square inch of the house in some form of red and green. She loves the sound of the carols (save Feliz Navidad) and the smell of the baking, even though she is the one wearing an apron. She loves that, for the briefest of moments, the world focuses on the birth of our Savior. She loves taking a drive to see lights on houses and staying home with hot chocolate around a fire. She loves spending time with family, watching It’s a Wonderful Life, reading the nativity story, and candlelight Christmas Eve services. She loves the mad dash on Christmas morning to see what Santa brought… the joy and wonder on our children’s faces. She loves it all.

 

 

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How do we do it this year?

Should we skip it?

Or should we cherish every moment together as the babe in the manger intended us to? Maybe, instead of focusing on what we’ve lost, we should hold on to the fragile remains of what we have – love, family, friends, and a newfound respect for the precious thing that is life. We should cling to our little girl, who, though frail, is fighting hard and encouraging others to do the same.

We aren’t alone. During the year, we’ve been welcomed into the country club no one wants to join – the childhood cancer community. While we are bound together by common tragedy, it is the warmest, most caring and wonderfully supportive group imaginable. It is the fraternity I wish I’d never pledged. Many of our new brothers and sisters are dealing with such incredible loss, and this time of year must certainly be crippling.

 

 

When referring to the promised coming of the child in the manger, Isaiah said, “…and a little child shall lead them.”

What if we took a cue from our little child?

 

Although she is the one feeling the pain, nausea, and side effects of cancer, she is also the one most excited about Christmas. Even though she only had the strength to stand long enough to put a single ornament on the tree, she admires the finished product and loves to be in the den where she can see it. She is the one who insisted on taking decorations out of town with her while she has to be gone for treatment. She is the one snuggling her elves, dreaming about Christmas morning, and soaking up every minute of the nearness of family and Christ at this time of year. She holds a compress on an aching jaw with one hand and draws up surprises for those most dear with the other. In a year of typically rapid growth for a child her age, she weighs 75% of what she did last Christmas, yet she samples whatever treats her nervous stomach will allow. While we fret over diagnosis and treatment, she savors joy, plucks smiles from pain, and builds a resume of contentment that few on this earth have ever seen. Perhaps she has it right and we have it all wrong.

 

Kylie hanging her favorite ornament

Kylie hanging her favorite ornament

Instead of looking to health and prosperity for our happiness, what if, just for a moment, we set aside our problems – however overwhelming, and looked to the manger, toward a child – with gratitude for his coming and a longing for his return? What if we laughed in the face of the enemy, knowing that we are wonderfully cared for and uniquely loved? What if we hoped, even when victory was uncertain? What if we dreamed of a better tomorrow regardless of what it may hold?

What if we smiled more…

This joyous Christmas, our family holds on to hope. Together, we look to the manger, to Jesus Christ our Lord for strength and healing. We dream of the day when there is a cure – for our child & every child. We pray that next year, not a single family will have to unwrap cancer for Christmas.

Sorry To See You Go

My technophobic wife has taken an increasing shine to internet shopping.

Point, click, receive, wrap… Point, click, receive, wrap…

At this point, you might be thinking this is another husband-rant about all of the clicking activity and the bill that will come due in January. Well, that may be a subject for another post (I hope the title changes), but right now I’m trying to wrap my mind around the amount of email spam that her clicking has brought us. You see, we share an email account. Mistake? Maybe… but it has worked thus far.

Here is the problem, cleaning my inbox is the one thing I’m OCD about. I need it to be current or I lose focus. At work, I churn through emails faster than a Gopher on balsa-wood. If I can answer it immediately, it is gone. If it makes me mad, gone. If it is ambiguous and may not pertain to me, whoops, I hit delete. My inbox is squeaky-clean. The one at work, that is.

The shared inbox at home gets bogged down in December with order confirmations, shipping information, and advertisements. Oh the advertisements. Did I mention my wife is a technophobe? So, while she has mastered the checkout function of two hundred seventy-four websites, I can’t convince her that they won’t think any less of her if she unchecks the little box that says, “Would you like us to send you an ungodly amount of emails that are irrelevant, obnoxious, and likely to cause enmity between husband and wife?”

I should be working a second job to prepare for the aforementioned bill, but I spend my December trying to unsubscribe from every mailing list known to mankind. Only they lie to you when they allow you to hold the illusion that leaving them is an option. It’s a web of deceit – an impossibility. You cannot be removed from mailing lists. “You have been removed from our mailing list. We are sorry to see you go” is a lie from the bowels of the earth.

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What the little button should say is, “Thank you for verifying your existence, I will now torture you every fifteen minutes with a blinking email reminder of your incompetence.”

After trying unsuccessfully to remove our email address from yet another list, I marched to the den, bowed out my chest, and sternly gave my wife an ultimatum!

“Either you learn to uncheck the subscribe button, or we are changing our email address!”

 

Women don’t like ultimatums.

 

Of course, our email address remains the same and though wounded and alone, I am off to fight a MailChimp.