Our kitten is slowly destroying the Christmas tree, and I’m okay with that. His name is Varjak Paw, after a cat in a book which Caleb’s beloved grade-four teacher read to his class, and to Annika’s class a couple of years later. Varjak is a sassy little guy, with slightly bowed front legs that give him an exaggerated swagger when he walks. He regularly attacks Cleo’s tail, in attempts to get her attention and have a good wrestle. He also likes to climb inside the fridge when someone opens it, and has been known to lick the butter if the cover is left off. We have surmised that one night he pushed a full chicken off of the kitchen counter so that Cleo, who was waiting patiently on the floor, could eat it. The roaster was licked clean when we got home, and both pets were hiding nervously in the playroom, but they didn’t need to worry.
I just laughed. We all laughed and laughed. It is hard to get upset about little things these days.
You see, my scan was clear. My oncologist told me I am cancer free. It is a wonderful thing, a truly fantastic piece of news. The best Christmas present ever, for the whole family. And I am full of gratitude and happiness. Every moment from now on is a gift for me, because I faced a life-threatening illness and survived. I am a survivor now.
I’ve been struggling to write this blog post, because part of me wants to wrap this whole experience up, put a bow on it, and say, “I’m done with this, it is over.” I feel pressure to do that. I keep saying things like, “onwards and upwards!” or “That is over, now back to normal life!”
But cancer changes you.
An old friend messaged me and said, “I am thinking of the thoughts, perspective and knowledge you’ve experienced.” I responded, “I feel utterly changed. And yet entirely like myself.” I am still processing the whirlwind that was the last ten months and, for some things, there just really aren’t words. There is understanding, though, and shared experience.
As I was thinking about how to write this post, I received an eloquent e-mail from another friend, who is a two-time cancer survivor. She said that if she had had something like this blog to read when she was first diagnosed with cancer she would have felt less alone with the disease. She thinks that many people who are dealing with a cancer diagnosis will find solace here.
I am so thankful that she sent me that e-mail, because I was reminded of why I started writing this in the first place. I remembered my poor, scared self sitting up in the middle of the night searching the internet in a desperate attempt to find people who had been through what I was facing. And then I realized that human beings are inherently messy, and that I had to continue to be honest.
So I will tell the truth, so that other people will not feel alone with these types of feelings and reactions.
I have a lot of physical, emotional and psychological changes to deal with. Some of them will heal and resolve over time, and some are here to stay. I will write about them honestly in the days to come. I will write about them knowing that I am extremely fortunate to be here everyday. I can enjoy this Christmas holiday without thinking it may be my last.
My wonderful oncologist said she thinks I will live a long time. I’ve pondered these simple words of hers a million times. I recite them in rhythm as I walk each day. And, although I no longer wake up sweating in fear in the middle of the night, I have to acknowledge that my life has been deeply altered by this whole experience.
I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while now so that I could wish you all happy holidays and share the good news. But I couldn’t present a neat and tidy ending to this cancer experience. Is anything in life ever that clean and clear?
We can celebrate happy news and enjoy the holidays. We can hug our loved ones and be filled with gratitude. And we can learn and grow and reflect and feel sadness, too. It is okay.
Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah, my friends. Here’s wishing you the courage to share a host of human emotions, the ability to laugh at the little things, and an abundance of good health throughout the holiday season and into the new year!
Merry Christmas to you, Asher, Toby Caleb, Annika and furry friends. Looking forward to reading your blog in the New Year. It is indeed a wonderful life ❤️
It is indeed, Deanne! Thank you for taking the time to read. Merry Christmas to you and your beautiful family! 💗
Beautifully expressed and such wonderful news (yay!). Merry Christmas, Janine. All the best for a wonderful holiday! ❤️
Thank you, Joanna!! Merry Christmas to you and Marc and your lovely family!! 😊
What a wonderful xmas present for you and your whole family, pets included. I hope you all have a “wonderful life” from now on. Your blog has been amazing. I am richer for having read it. To know you is to know a person with so much compassion, warmth, humor, courage, and honesty that I feel privileged to have been able to follow you on your frightening, difficult journey. If you continue to write, I will read. For now, enjoy this moment and the many more to come.
Bethanie, thank you so much for the kind words. I feel the same way about your writing and always anxiously await the next piece!!
Thank you so much for sharing your journey. You are truly an inspiration and a gift to this world. I am so happy to hear your great news. Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!
Hi Sheri! Thank you so much 😊. I so appreciate the support!! I hope you have a lovely Christmas full of love and happiness with your beautiful family!
My dear friend (it’s amazing what blogging can accomplish, isn’t it?)—
I have actually been concerned about you because it has seemed like a while since your last post.
I am ecstatic and a bit teary-eyed to receive your wonderful news. And I don’t think your oncologist would have been so definite in saying she expects you to live a long time if she weren’t totally confident based on her experience. Doctors tend to hedge to protect themselves. She sure didn’t do that.
I shall be with you cheerleading as you unfold the ways in which you have experienced and adapted to the changes inherent in this harsh voyage you’ve just concluded.
In the meantime, brava! May you and your family, including the furry ones, have a wonderful holiday—and welcome the dawning new decade with a special sense of joy.
Annie, thank you so much for taking the time to follow my cancer experience. Your support and friendship means so much and is a testament to how powerful blogging can be! To actually get to know someone online by reading their pieces… well, it is wonderful actually!!
And as you say, there is so much that blogging can help one accomplish.
the reason you didn’t hear from me for awhile was because I took a hiatus from all things online in the time between the end of my chemo and the report of my scan results. I was physically sick and worn out and couldn’t return emails, etc. So I just unplugged for a while. It was rejuvenating, but I missed a lot, too!!
Enjoy the holiday season with your family 😊. Here’s to a happy and healthy 2020!!
I wasn’t expecting an explanation, but it is certainly understandable that you needed a hiatus. Now I am delighted to welcome you back!
I am so thrilled to hear this amazing news! Hope you can relax and ‘breathe’ again. I can’t imagine what you have been going through. 2020 will be fabulous! 😘
Thank you so much, Jennifer! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your beautiful family!!😘
This is great news Janine, so glad to hear it. Thank you for sharing your thoughts in your blog, I look forward to reading it, so I hope you keep it up. No pressure, but you have a unique take on things whether it’s dealing with cancer or other topics. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family, Gerald! Thank you, as always for taking the time to read and comment on my blog. It is so appreciated!
Thank you for sharing Janine! This is great news! We wish you and your family a very, Merry Christmas and look forward to reading your posts (if in fact you continue) as you are a gifted writer who can touch emotion with your words. I have no doubt your words have helped many.
May 2020 be a refreshing year for you as you journey through life. Wishing you much love and laughter this Christmas.
Thank you, Maria! I hope you have a wonderful, happy, relaxing break this Christmas! Merry Christmas and happy new year to you and your family 😊
How exhilarating to read of your triumph and the sobering reflexions that accompany the joy.
Life is fragile and we the living should feel grateful and blessed.
Events alter us but as you say, our core remains and we carry on.
I have been friends with Melanie and Gerry for over 40 years. I was fortunate to attend your lovely wedding, admire your beautiful family, share their pride in your accomplishments, and share the angst of your family when you were stricken.
Love is a wonderful thing. It sustains us.
At this season and from now on, I wish you well!
Thank you, Pamela! Yes, as you so eloquently say, our core remains and we carry on! Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on my blog. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season, and a happy and healthy new year!!