Bah Humbug, But Not Really
Okay, I admit it, I haven’t been a lover of the festive season for a long time. Yes, I know, absolute sacrilege. To my mind it had become too commercialized, overpriced, and overhyped, and lost its meaning.
Having said that, I don’t profess to being a particularly religious person. What faith I had has been severely challenged over recent years thanks to my family being so adversely affected by cancer.
I lost my 53-year-old sister to breast cancer two years ago, and three years ago I was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer. It’s been a very tough three years. However, the meaning of Christmas at the faith level is about celebrating the birth of Christ, and I think that this is lost too often nowadays.
For me, Christmas has always been about family and family traditions: waking up and cooking breakfast, putting the turkey in the oven, dressing up in our best, going to church, getting home, opening the fizz, opening some presents and then sitting down to the size of meal that you would never normally eat, falling asleep in front of the television and drinking way too much.
Putting family first
In recent years, though, it has become so much more, and my love of Christmas has returned. In 2013, my first grandchild, Ethan, was born, and we bonded immediately and we dote on each other. Alas, in May 2017, I was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer and told I may have as little as two years to live. That really focuses your mind!
I sat back and re-assessed what was important in my life, and it certainly wasn’t the stress and pressures of owning an accountancy practice. No, family had to come first and, most importantly, building memories for Ethan so that he’d remember his Grumps when I’ve gone.
Spending time with grandchildren
It was an easy choice. I reduced my working hours and picked Ethan up from school three days per week and spent the afternoons with him.
There is one very fond memory when I picked him up from nursery. His parents were asked how they’d recognize me, and they said, “You won’t need to recognize him. You’ll just need to see Ethan’s reaction.” As I entered the nursery, he saw me from across the room, his face lit up and he ran to me with arms outstretched. Have to say that I still shed a tear thinking about it.
Leaning on family
In 2018, another Grandson, Finn, came along, and I’ve looked after him once or twice a week for most of his little life. We have a lovely relationship, and the two boys have really brightened my life since my diagnosis. They, and the rest of my family, give me a reason to carry on when the going gets tough.
The festive season now is all about the boys, seeing them on Christmas day, watching the joy on their faces as they open their presents, and building memories for them.
Fearing prostate cancer during the holidays
But now comes the hard bit! Never far from your mind is that horrible nagging thought that this might be your last Christmas with them, and that thought can often bring me to my knees emotionally.
How many other landmarks in their lives will I not see? Will I get to see them become teenagers, go to university? That’s why this festive season is going to be particularly hard as it is impacted by Covid. Won’t it be truly awful not to see your loved ones this year, for those who might not see another Christmas?
Living life to the fullest
That’s why it’s so important to make the absolute most of every single day, particularly when living with a dreaded disease. Live every day as if it’s your last, and fill it with joy. It shouldn’t take a serious illness for us to realize this, but too often we are so busy in life that we aren’t actually living it.
So my message at this festive season is to make the absolute most of it, enjoy it as much as you can even if it’s not a normal celebration, and let’s all go into the new year with the aim of living every single day to the fullest and as if it’s your last.
I have my three-monthly PSA test and treatments in mid December and, right now, all I want for Christmas is for everything to be stable. Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers.
Have a wonderful festive season, and here’s to many more.
What was the most difficult part of your diagnosis?