Cancer-land During the Holidays

cancer-landTo say that my thoughts have been elsewhere lately would be accurate. Generally, they can be found wandering through Cancer-land, exploring what can seem like the never-ending terrain of scans, surgeries, treatments, and results. When one valley has been thoroughly tread upon, there is yet another rocky hill looming ahead.

Someone told me after I finished my last chemotherapy treatment, “You should be happy now! Surely you can see the light at the end of the tunnel!” No, unfortunately I’m still on that train, eating lunch in the dining car. 

I don’t know why I continue to be surprised by what others say. It is the rare person who understands cancer and its effect on your life, and it is a true friend who will stay with you through the ups and downs of treatment. Especially in this season of merriment and celebration.

Indeed, looking out the window last night, I was surprised to see Christmas lights glittering on houses throughout our neighborhood. Oh yeah, it is the holidays, isn’t it?

When your life is formed around doctor’s appointments, surgeries, and treatments, you can often forget that others are going about with the normal things of life, shopping for Christmas presents and attending parties. Unfortunately, regular folks forget that some of us are having surgery and getting treatment over the holidays. And that others are grieving the loss of loved ones to cancer.

“Merry” can be far, far away for many during this season.

Walking through Cancer-land right now, I’m learning to take it moment to moment. Merry I may not be. Even “thankful” can all too often be a memory. But as Joni Eareckson Tada states in “No Higher Calling: A Christian Response to Suffering” in the Beyond Suffering Bible:

“Take life in bite-sized, manageable chunks. Start giving thanks to God for small things….I learned that following the Bible–even saying the right thing with a hopeful spirit–was a way of placing myself under the shower of God’s mercy.”

I’m trying to take things moment to moment. Yesterday I was thankful for a visit from a friend. This morning I was thankful for a hot cup of coffee and some time in Second Life. And for kitties who bring lots of fun to my days.

I’m doing my best to follow Tada’s advice to say thanks for these little things with a little bit of hope. Saying thanks in the kitchen and living room and even the bathroom, because cancer affects all of your life and all of your body. And sometimes even just being able to drink a cup of coffee without pain is cause for being thankful.

Cancer-land is a place where many of us find ourselves during the holiday season. Some of us may not be merry or feel very much like celebrating. Perhaps, though, that being willing to say thanks for the small things in life while trudging up hills that seem way too tall is enough for the moment.


Original Photo by marjo on
Original Photo by marjo on

“Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.” –Helen Keller

With a power outage tonight, light was on the minds of most of the residents of our neighborhood. It is easy to move along in our days, expecting everything to always be ok, to always remain the same. At an unexpected moment, though, the light in our lives can suddenly disappear. Then we are forced to see the possibilities of darkness surrounding us.

Before the outage hit our neighborhood, I saw an old friend tonight while on an evening walk with my husband. She has struggled with scleroderma for several years and is seemingly in the last stages of her disease. Tonight she admitted that she has given up on treatment in order to live whatever life she might have left. Not much older than myself, she could have many years left if not faced with this disease, and yet she lives her life with much more faith and light than I.

She is such a sweet person, and still she faces the encroaching darkness daily with a strength not seen in most people, at least not until they are challenged in some way. As with our power outage tonight, she was forced out of the flow of everyday life some time in the past, only to find her faith in the process. She experiences unimaginable pain each day, but I have never heard her complain. She only asks about others and is concerned for their welfare.

The darkness seems to be spreading in our world, but people like my friend can show us an alternative. When I saw her and heard about the progress of her disease, I grew ashamed at my lack of faith or appreciation for my own state of health. My friend’s faith helps her to see the light of this world and live her life to the fullest, loving each moment, along with her friends and family.

I would ask that you join me in prayer for my friend.


“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.” ― Randy PauschThe Last Lecture

It is sometimes a struggle for many of us to even step out of bed in the morning. Whether it is a period of unemployment that never ends, a new diagnosis of a terminal illness, or a chronic mental illness, life often brings us to the point of giving in to defeat. I’m not so sure about the saying that “God doesn’t give us anything that we can’t handle.” I’ve seen plenty of people bear more than they should have to handle, ultimately succumbing to addiction or suicide.

If you were to ask me today how I’m doing, I would probably say, “I’ve had better months.” The upcoming loss of my teaching position has me at a loose end. I seem to be scrambling at writing anything possible online in order to gain some attention for my efforts and hopefully some employment. As I watch for comments and increasing scores–and not seeing either–it seems a futile effort, one that will ultimately bring me nothing.

But I’ve had worse months as well. And on those days when everything seems hopeless, I try to remember that I’ve come through worse times, ones that were filled with illness for myself and family members, along with the deaths of several family members. I’ve survived. And that’s what I’m trying to hang onto right now when the outlook for our future seems so uncertain.