A year ago at this time of year, I was in the home stretch of my treatment for advanced testicular cancer. The worst was behind us, and we were looking forward to what the future would hold after treatment. Despite my last chemo treatment being on December 18th, the plan was still for us to go to South Carolina to spend Christmas with my family. I had talked to the doctor about taking a heparin shot before the drive down and the drive home, and was prepared for the fatigue that travel would give me. But still, it would be worth it. A week after ringing that bell signaling that treatment was over, I would be back in my home town to celebrate with my family. However, different plans would unfold.
The week of my last chemotherapy treatment I was hospitalized with an unknown infection. Fever, low white blood cell count, and instant admission to the hospital. Still, I thought, we would make it if I got out in time. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t make it out as soon as I thought. And the antibiotics I was given while there destroyed me. I couldn’t eat, I could barely drink water without feeling sick, and I was extremely weak. Traveling would just not be a possibility anymore. Needless to say, I was pretty heartbroken. Still, we celebrated Christmas and the fact that I was done with treatment. But it wasn’t the Christmas we had hoped for at all.
This year has been a reclamation of life. For every day that cancer stole from us last year, we have taken it back. Every day, night, weekday, weekend, and holiday. Showing testicular cancer that the only thing it has stolen from me can be well lived without. Two nuts does not a…. One nut is better than…. Oh you get the point. I can live without lefty, and have proven that this year. The holiday season, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas are the two biggest holidays we have vowed to dominate this year.
This year we have pulled out all of the stops we could to make it a great holiday season, not just for us, but for the kids as well. We know very well that the stress we were under last year affected them as well. They deserve better days just as much as we do. This year, we hosted our very first Thanksgiving dinner. We cooked it ourselves at our place and had family over to share it with us. I got the honor of putting the Christmas tree up the next day with the kids while my wife was at work. Later that evening we put up the rest of the decorations. We started the advent calendar for the first time this year and the most welcomed, Felix, our elf on the shelf. Or as he is, on the counter right now. And on the 22nd, we’ll load up the car and head to my parents’ house to spend Christmas as we had originally planned last year.
I have watched my wife smile while we cooked together for Thanksgiving. I have seen her glow from the excitement of Christmas. A glow that was barely visible last year. My children have been filled with wonder, excitement, and cheer as Christmas approaches. They have curiously eyed Felix’s every move, are enchanted by the different activities in the advent calendar, and are so thrilled that Santa will know they are at Nana and Papa’s house this Christmas. We have wrapped up like presents (see the above picture), written letters to Santa, learned about the first Christmas, and so much more.
Yes, I do think that the Taylors may be winning this holiday season. And why shouldn’t we? The last year and a half has seen so much negativity, doubt, fear, sorrow, and pain. While I may not be 100% still, there is much to be celebrated this holiday season. The precious gift of life and family, community and communion. The fact that things can always be worse, and we further realize how blessed we truly are. Reclaiming the holiday season in the name of family, fortune, health, and love. I can’t think of anything better to top off this season.