Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

That Time Of Year Again. So What?

If you have followed my blog over the years, you know this is not a good time of year for me.  Like many others, holidays increase stress, remind us of loss, and well… given today’s political climate, never a dull moment.

It was around Thanksgiving that I was diagnosed with cancer, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  Of course, I would carry this nightmare through the entire Christmas season and all of the other holidays that followed, including my birthday.  Ironically, as I have been writing about the 30th anniversary that I recognize in remission of my Hodgkin’s, coming up in March, it was declared in November, just before Thanksgiving that after three cycles, it appeared that my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma was in remission, still leaving me many months to go with preventative treatments (that is why I recognize March, when I was actually done with all my treatments).

So, no, that does not create a “wash” situation.  My diagnosis and remission both in the same month, just before the same holiday do not cancel out my dislike of the holidays.  Admittedly for decades though, I would blame my grudge on just my cancer history.  In reality, there was, and is, much more to it than that.

Going back to my childhood, my house would experience a fire while celebrating my birthday (in December) in 1976.  Two years later, at least four relatives would pass away during the Fall/Winter holiday season.  Though still too young at that point to let these tragedies affect me, came my diagnosis in 1988.  Several years later, just days before Christmas, my stepmother would be hit by a car, with my father witnessing the impact.

For the time being, that was enough events in my life to make dislike the holiday season.  And I was not alone.

With the adoption of my daughters, there was hope that I could put my resistance to holidays aside, if for no other reason, than the innocence of my daughters.  I would at least go through the motions of enthusiasm for the days to come, for their sakes, getting into the spirit.

That became more of a challenge however, because unfortunately, there were issues within our house, that were only dealt with by sacrifices.  And by sacrifices, I mean, we liked stuff.  We wanted stuff.  And to have that stuff, that meant, working on my days off, the holidays, pretty much all of them, all year round, so that we could have stuff.  And it was nice stuff.  Stuff that we no longer kept, including the opportunity of salvaging holidays for someone who finally had a reason to celebrate them, only to not be able to experience them, because I was at work.  I would also experience another major health even just weeks before Christmas in 2012, actually a relapse of an event earlier in the year.

Years later, following divorce, there would be a time period, that I was unable to see or spend the holiday season at all with my daughters.  In fact, it was my disregard for celebrating holidays that led me to actually give every holiday to their mother for regular custody, because the holidays became worthless to me.

But as I have reflected, while I blamed  the event of my cancer on my distaste for holidays, it is way deeper than that.  And to be honest, I do not miss celebrating the holidays either, at least on the holidays themselves.  I do celebrate with my daughters around the holidays, just not on them.  Because the time I get to spend with them, is more valuable to me than the holiday itself.

Perhaps some day, I will take another swing at holidays, if my daughters, and my doctors give me the opportunity to be a grandfather, still many years away hopefully.  But for now, I am okay, just going through another day, another year, no stress, not really giving any thought about all the losses that I have experienced, and definitely no talk of politics, and just simply watch some football.

I do not write this story for pity.  Quite the contrary.  This is a choice I have made.  But the truth is, there are many though who do struggle with the holidays.  Unfortunately, you may not know who they are, as I recently shared a meme recently that said, “check on your strong friends.  They are the ones bleeding in silence.”

And yes, after all this, I am still going to say, Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.  I really am quite thankful for all the care, support, and encouragement that I have gotten over the years, whether through my cancer and related illnesses, or tragic events and crisis in my life.

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