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What Having Cancer Taught Me About Christmas

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This is the time of year when life starts to slow down. Yes, the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping, and getting ready for the holidays could be an Olympic sport in itself, but our mind has focused in; to family to being grateful, to peace and to love "'tis the season."

For some people the stress levels go up, though. There's the prospect of having so much to do and prepare prior to the holidays, or perhaps the impending arrival of family members. You have much anticipation, and hope for fun and stress free times. At the same time, sometimes just the jingle of a Christmas carol on the radio is enough to send you around the bend.

For cancer patients and survivours this time of year can be stressful as well. Five years ago I was a breast cancer patient who was in my third month of chemotherapy. I had three daughters between the ages of seven and 13 years old.

I was lucky.

I had been running through my treatment, and was in good shape, considering the circumstances, and had enough energy. I had also decided to keep working full time. But with Christmas on the horizon, I had this self imposed additional burden to do what I had always done in the past. With the difficulty of my cancer diagnosis, surgeries and chemotherapy, I wanted the girls to experience normalcy. I wanted us to be like we were prior to the "c" word happening and disrupting our lives.

We did have a nice Christmas that year, but the years that have gone by since then. My newfound wisdom as a cancer survivor has shed the light on a little secret: we don't have to do all that work. I'm sure my family would have been just as happy to stay home, be less busy, and receive fewer presents. I am also certain that all they really wanted was for me to be there -- alive -- with them.

So what did I learn? I learned that it was more important to spend the time with the people who count. I learned that it was just as important to take care of myself and spend some time in peaceful reflection during this season where work winds down, and we turn towards our loved ones. I learned that whatever stresses we have in our lives, including the struggle in the lives of cancer patients and survivours, should be pushed aside.

This is a time where we give thanks. For whomever you are, and whatever your circumstances of life, there is always something to be grateful for. And the surprising thing is that the more you are grateful, and give thanks, the more at peace your life will be.

So take your worry hat off, if only for awhile. Slow down and enjoy your holiday. Spend time with the ones who love and support you. Take in the awesome smells around you, and really taste the food you are offered. Meditate on your improving health and positive outlook. Walk your dogs. Feed your soul. This is just as much your time. Savour the magic.

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