Christmas with cancer

When it comes to hosting Christmas we usually take it in turns between my partner’s parents and us, with my parents visiting from up North every other year. This year was an our friends from the North year so due to be at our house. I had been planning it pretty much since January 2013 and had ordered a fantastic Christmas box from my friends who run a farm in Worcestershire.

When I told my mother in law about my cancer diagnosis she immediately offered to host Christmas. Obviously this was a lovely offer but I declined. When it comes to Christmas I am fiercely enthusiastic and not a little controlling. I was determined to host Christmas, cancer or no and my partner, my daughter and my mum were all here to help. I was completely confident that we could pull it off.

I am a complete control freak and usually insist on having everything made from scratch and just so. I missed stir up Sunday though as I had just had my diagnosis and was generally a bit wobbly so no home made pudding this year and whilst I think I compromised quite a bit on the home made front I am told that most folk buy the Christmas pudding and the mince pies and the bread sauce ready made anyway. I tried to buy ready made cranberry sauce but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I am a snob. I know. I also insisted on the table centre I had been planning all year. It was quite an undertaking but I got my partner to cut down the branches and my dad to go out and collect a bucket full of shells from the beach so I didn’t have to do all the heavy lifting.

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The upshot of all this is that I ended up working pretty hard over Christmas but having said that Christmas-wise I have been pretty lucky. Many of the women I have met online who, like me, are starting chemo in January are also recovering from surgery. I haven’t had to cope with that yet so my Christmas was just dealing with a few sore swollen lymph nodes and the psychology of cancer.

Christmas Eve is usually chaotic. I spend the whole day preparing food, baking, decorating. This year was no different. Occasionally I remembered that I have cancer and thought I should probably be taking it easy but apart from a bit of pain in my lymph nodes I was fine. Then it struck me. I was rearranging the dining room, getting the room ready for Christmas Day lunch and I realised that, as my cancer was in all likelihood misdiagnosed in 2011, then to all extents and purposes I have already organised our civil partnership ceremony and receptions, 2 Easters, my 40th birthday camp, a Christmas and 2 teenage birthday parties whilst having cancer. I just didn’t know it. Why therefore should this year be any different? I haven’t started treatment yet so no chemo side effects or surgery scars or healing. In fact if I hadn’t had a biopsy on my lymph nodes I’d probably be feeling perfectly normal.

Most of the time it is sickening to think that I had been wandering around with cancer for years without the first idea. The silver lining is that for all that time I was fine. I have no significant pain and I don’t feel ill but knowing you have cancer changes things. This Christmas I realised that it doesn’t have to. At least not all of the time.  I realised that whilst I am well enough and capable I will put all the usual vigour and effort into the things I love. I created a huge table centre; dinner had 4 courses and was a triumph; I did not stint on the port. I had a fantastic Christmas.

Next up, New Year’s Eve.

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