This Holiday Season, Celebrate Life


“I’ve survived 100% of my worst days. And that is something worth celebrating.”

When I was little, the anticipation of Christmas was awesome. Baking cookies, buying and wrapping gifts and writing letters to Santa. As I grew older, I looked more forward to giving gifts to my loved ones and the chance to reflect on the previous year and begin a new one.

Once I got sick, time started to move more slowly. Life became about getting through each hour and each day. Not all days are bad, but the good ones are coupled with worries of the unknown – Will I feel sick tomorrow? Will this go on much longer?

All the reflection on my life, which wouldn’t typically begin until Christmastime, became a daily ritual. And all of the fears I now have on a daily basis tend to compound around the holidays. I get concerned with feeling healthy enough to enjoy cookies or our traditional holiday dinners. I worry about getting stuck in the snow and not being able to get home or get to a doctor.

It’s very easy to get lost in those foggy feelings and let the fear consume you. There are some days when you almost have no choice but to let yourself feel all of that. It can feel even harder when everyone around you is full of joy because of the holiday.

This will be my third Christmas since my cancer diagnosis, and I've spent them all with my now-fiancé which helps make them memorable. But there’s something else I’ve noticed that happens around this time of year. No matter how sick or well I feel on Christmas Day and watching the year change at midnight on New Year’s Eve, there’s always a moment when I feel proud of the fact that I am still here.

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No matter the uncertainty I feel, I always make it through to the next day and the next month. Sure, sometimes I get to the next day a little more tired, a pound less or with more nausea than the day before, but I’ve still survived. I survived every one of those sleepless nights in New York and days of eating nothing but a scrambled egg, a slice of toast and some jello. I’ve made it through the nasty drinks and IVs of mystery fluid before my scans.

I’ve survived 100% of my worst days. And that is something worth celebrating.

It’s so important to remember that progress is still happening and that the healing process – emotional, physical and mental – can take time. So it’s okay to still have bad days and struggle with what I went through in 2014. Since then, I’ve become stronger, and my strength comes from knowing what I went through and that I survived it.

With only a few days until Christmas, I’m doing everything I can to channel that strength and use it to begin 2017 on a grateful and optimistic note.

Editor’s Note: Cancer patient outcomes and experiences may vary, even for those with the same type of cancer. An individual patient’s story should not be used as a prediction of how another patient will respond to treatment. Roswell Park is transparent about the survival rates of our patients as compared to national standards, and provides this information, when available, within the cancer type sections of this website.