This year, our holidays will be fairly low key. We are finding ourselves a bit of what my old friend Judy (who passed two years ago from this horrible disease) “cancer poor”. We are ok. Thank goodness for decent insurance, right? But there were expenses…like three times as many summer camps for the boys than usual, money well-spent IMO.
We are just needing to tighten our belts and personally, I think it’s a good thing. I think it teaches good lessons to be fiscally responsible.
So, I’m making stuff with my fancy sewing machine that was purchased pre-diagnosis.
We bought cards but they are from Costco and I bought the bare minimum. And no, I did not include a picture of myself on them. I am not in any frame of mind to put my mug on a dorky holiday card and send it out.
I love getting holiday cards. Seriously. I love it. I tape them all over my window sill. They make me really happy.
But the pressure of sending them. It’s a lot for an unorganized girl like me. Every year, I run out of cards. Every year, I go digging up the same addresses. Every year, I finally give up in exhaustion knowing that I most likely sent three cards to the same house. Mail merges and lists are a great idea but it’s not my strong suit. Every year it’s the same thing. But that’s okay.
Want to see how many cards I got when I was going through treatment? I kept them all. They make me really happy. They give me goosebumps. I keep them in a pretty bag.
I wish I could make something crafty for every single person who thoughtfully sent me a gift or a card or several cards.
But for now, I am starting with my boys’ teachers. My youngest is making his teacher a reversible scarf. It’s of his own design. I’m like, “What about this nice pattern? Or this one?” and he’s all, “No Mom, I know what I want to do.” So we went to the fabric store and he picked his teacher’s favorite colors and we will work on it once he finishes this other project we’ve been working on.
And as a side note, I strongly believe that parents should give a gift to their child’s teachers around the holidays and at the end of the school year. I don’t just say that because I am a teacher. I say it because I know how hard these people work. I know it is often a thankless job. I know these teachers have a lot on their plates besides making sure our kids get a good education. They deserve something nice. Even if it’s a card your child made for them that you filled with words of gratitude.
Regardless of what I make and what I do this holiday season. For me, this December is really about appreciating the people who made my life easier while I went through a difficult time. People who went above and beyond to bring a smile to my face or that of my boys. I said early on in this blog that I am historically an insecure person. I fully expected to be alone once I was diagnosed. I really thought that I would lose everyone. Sadly, I just braced myself for that because it has been a pattern in my life. But it didn’t happen (well it DID happen on one level (a horrendous level) but not with the people who really know me and LOVE me). I am overwhelmed by the love I received. And yes, a card in the mail makes a difference. A text makes a difference. A phone call makes a difference. Calling me and asking if you can come for a visit makes a difference. If you brought us a dinner, it made a difference. If you thought about us, it made a difference. Support is support. And it makes all the difference. I was tidying and I found a note from one of my dearest friends whom I have known since the second grade. “I wish I lived closer.” she said. It made me tear up even months later.
I’ve been reading that when someone is diagnosed with cancer, many just don’t know what to do. It scares them. Some it scares so badly that they need to turn away. But if you are reading this and you are scared, I just have to tell you that it doesn’t take much to make someone’s day. A card, a text, a prayer, a Facebook message. Being brave means doing things even when you are scared so if someone you love this season is going through something and you just don’t know what to do, just do something little. That’s really all it takes.
And conversely, if someone you love is diagnosed with something horrible, don’t go overboard either. Respect the person’s boundaries and listen to their wishes. Their illness is not about you. I really believe that a lot of misunderstandings and arguments occur because of this. I learned that my illness is my thing and that I have the right to set any kind of boundary without others adding their egos into the mix. The last thing I wanted to do during chemo was argue with another person and yet, in the beginning of my treatment, it was happening a lot and everyone involved was miserable. Cancer patients don’t have the energy to waste on petty ego arguments. The last thing I needed was that. Think about it. It may hurt to hear that your presence is not needed but it isn’t always about you. That may sound harsh but it’s true. Toward the end of chemo, there were times that I was home alone and I was too sick to answer the door. I had to cancel dinners that people were bringing because I knew I couldn’t get out of bed to open the front door. I felt awful and ungrateful cancelling but you know what? Everyone was understanding.
One of my friends had even MADE the meal. I asked her not to bring it and she put it in her freezer. Then she texted me asking if she could bring it in a couple of days but I didn’t get the text for months. I was mortified. I felt so rude and bad. But when I contacted her…she was totally cool about it. She was all kindness. That matters. It matters.
Having this cancer has taught me a lot about myself. About who and what is important. About who I can rely on to really have my best interests at heart. And the little things mattered. That time my friend Michelle brought me popsicles mattered. That time my friend Julie patiently let me change my mind about a coffee date three times mattered. That time my brother came to visit and hugged me and told me he loved me mattered. That time my sister texted me pictures of my adorable new niece, it mattered. All the times my clan of aunties sent me a card to lift my spirits, it mattered. And when my mother drove seven hours simply to take my children to GolfLand to give us all a break, that mattered. The daily texts throughout my chemo from my friend and sorority mom Jennifer, those texts mattered a lot. That time my friend L knocked on my door with a Starbucks, that mattered. That time I told my friend Heather I was too tired to talk and she gently let me get off the phone, that mattered. That time this wonderful guy, Rich ran a marathon for me and brought me the Tiffany necklace. Well, that just made me cry like a baby.
I believe that patterns happen in our lives and it is up to us to see them and face them and fix them when we can or, if we need to, let them go.
I think this cancer (while it is a horrible thing) has shown me how loved I am. And that is a big lesson for a person who deep down has not always felt very loved.
I am so grateful for the love and care I have received. I am so lucky. I wish I could send every one of you a present I made with my two little hands.
But all I can really say is thank you for being there for me in whatever way. It mattered.