Monday, December 7, 2009

Trying to gain some excitement around the holidays.....

It’s three in the morning and I am wide awake. I had a short snooze while attempting to read my book earlier and now I am wide awake. I did not even get a nap today. For some reason it is days like these when I am busy and do not get a chance to take a nap that I have trouble falling asleep at night. Maybe I am over tired. It could also be that my mind is going a thousand miles a minute. I am feeling anxious, but not exactly sure what about. I have been having more anxiety lately. I can usually ignore it during the day, but it is hard to ignore in the middle of the night, when the house is quiet with nothing to distract you from your thoughts.

Today I decorated a Christmas tree. My parents have this small tree that usually put in the kitchen with cookie cutter ornaments and gingerbread men. This year they allowed me to decorate that tree with my ornaments. I have had a tree in my condo since Christmas of 1999.

I stated collecting ornaments even before that and now have quite a selection. I have ornaments generations old, handed down by my mother’s great grandmother. Unwrapping my ornaments and placing them on the tree is like a walk down memory lane. I have a memory or story for each of the ornaments and they all have different meanings. As a chef in early adulthood a former life, I have several related to cooking (a pig dressed in a chef jacket and hat, reindeer made of cooking utensils, and a Santa on a rope of garlic). I have a whole collection dedicated to my love of nature, hiking and camping (hiking boot, back pack, tent, and hiking Santa). I also have ornaments that I picked up during many of my trips to Aruba, Disney and other places. I can’t talk about my ornament collection without mentioning the dog ornaments. As many of you know I am a golden retriever lover. I have at least ten ornaments depicting golden retrievers frolicking. And I have a couple very special ornaments for my dog Oscar. My friend Sara helped me decorate the tree and with every ornament we picked up I would tell her who gave it to me and what it meant something to me.

This was just another wonderful reminder that I have had a rich life and am very blessed. I am not one that is defined by my possesses, but it is nice to have something that when you look at it takes you back to the moment you received it, purchased it, or however to came to have it and you remember what you felt when you first saw it and what reminds you off.

I honestly did not think I would see Christmas this year. In a way I made my goodbyes to the holidays last year. Christmas and New Year’s was very tough for me last year. I had decided to stop treatment and was processing the prognosis the doctors were giving me. Advent is one of my favorite church seasons and last year I did my best to enjoy it, but in the back of my mind was voice that kept saying this is the last time you will have Christmas with your family, the last time you decorate your tree, the last time you get to share your nephew’s excitement about Santa on Christmas eve and then watching them enjoy their presents on Christmas. It was hard to celebrate New Year’s because I had no idea how long I would be alive. I went to Christmas Eve service at my church last year and I cried all the way through it. It was not dainty tears running down my cheeks, it was body wrenching sobs.

I am amazed (and so are my docs) that I am seeing another Christmas and I do see this as the blessing it is. But it is a mixed blessing. I have the joy of sharing this time with my family and friends, but I also have the voice back in my head reminding me this is most likely some of my last experiences. I know that anything is possible, especially when you take in account that I am doing fairly good I was not expected to live this long, but I know that I am dying and I know with every cold, breathing attack, and increased tiredness that each day is just one day closer to the end.

The last year has been about quality of life and make sure that I do only what is really valuable to me and to do as many things that make me happy as possible. I am living life for each day and all that it brings. Some days are bad, but many wonderful things happen too. I just need to remember these next couple of weeks to live in the moments. To not think about whether is the last time I will see someone or do something, but to just cherish the moment and live in the present.

On a somewhat unrelated comment, I have been getting a lot of feedback from people about the blog and have been amazed how many people are reading it. I would love it if you would leave a comment and let me know what you like about the blog or if a posting spoke to you in any way. This blog may be about me, but it is also about all of you who are a part of my journey and if there a topic you would like me to talk about or questions you have, please feel free to ask. Thank you for your support.


Trish said...

I have known most of my life that I would get melanoma. It is a familial thing and it was almost a relief when I was know the train is coming, the waiting can kill you with anticipation, even for bad things.

you are certainly a part of my journey with melanoma, which is why I keep coming back to read. I vowed a while back to stop reading melanoma blogs---I've lost almost a dozen blogger friends in the last year to breaks my heart each time. Part of it is because if someone else keeps alive, maybe I will too. When someone dies from melanoma, it is like the oxygen in the room diminishes just a little each time for me. Scary. Am not sure that any other cancer is any better to read about---lost plenty of friends to any other kind of cancer too...but it is different, hitting not quite so close to home for me.

I can't say as I have "enjoyed" this journey with you, but I am glad I have been along for the ride, as long as you're on it anyway---might as well have decent people with you.

When you posted you were halting treatment, I bawled. Not MY choice at the time and yet, if I had made that choice and someone gave me "what for" about it, I'd kick them. But it did make me realize how glad I am you and I and anyone else *can* make the decision that works for each of us.

My oncologist was talking to another chemo patient when I was in the infusion room some time back. The chemo was going to delay the inevitable for that patient, but it would buy time for a wedding, an anniversary and to guarantee the patient wouldn't die at an "important" time in the family's life. The patient was talking about the last birthday for Joey, the last big family get together, the last x, y and z. My oncologist said not to look at each one as a "last", but as an opportunity to make a memory. It might be the last, it might not be---won't know until it's over. Relish in the moments you do have and have fun! That patient is still around, as you are, rather unexpectedly. That taught me that no matter how much we think we know the answer, we don't and just go with it...enjoy it. Be the eccentric lady, cuz you can...and when it is time, you can have that last hug, kiss, smile and laughter, just don't mark each event as "the last". You'll be right ONE of the times...but not every time.

Thanks for being here. Thanks for posting, for sharing, for letting me escape my own cancer for a while. From one natural redhead, I thank you whole-heartedly.

Anonymous said...

What a blessing it was to help with the tree and hearing the such a blessing as our friendship has been over the years. A friendship that I'll always cherish. ~Sara

Pat Steer (Gaelen) said...

Allison, I'm not sure why I'm here. I found you and your blog through comments on Kairol Rosenthal's blog - and maybe I'm drawn to another redhead's journey. Maybe I see ahead down my own road in the days you're having now. Maybe I just like how you're expressing these thoughts that I know too well are not easy to think through, much less write down or say out loud. All I know is that I want you to share what you can, for as long as you can - and I know how selfish that is of me. But here, I can be a reader first and a writer second and a supporter in any way I can.
My strongest thoughts, Allison.

Kris said...

Alli, your bogs always warm my heart, even when you are having challenging times. You write in an open, honest manner, and your heart and spirit shine right through the words. As someone else who has a cancer that is
"treatable but not curable," I find your experiences and insights helpful in my own journey through cancer and through life.

It is all about now and the moments in life. None of us get out alive and few of us ever know just when are time is up. Maybe that's the advantage to cancer; you eventually know that it will bring your life to a close and so you have the chance to make memories, treasure moments and tell people what's in your heart. So many people come to an abrupt end and have never had those chances.

You made me look at my own tree and decorations with a different eye this year, and I thank you for that.

Sending you the joy and peace of this blessed season. Kris