Celebration in the Cancer Chaos

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I’m always amazed at the tenacity of people during tough times to look at life with a “silver lining” outlook. In the midst of their suffering, they see goodness that can be celebrated. During my years as an oncology nurse, I’ve observed this many times over. My patients have taught me, it starts with the mind and a hope that in the midst of tragedy they can still celebrate something, even if it’s that they felt better than the day before. I remember caring for a patient who had a bone marrow transplant and was hospitalized for over a month. He was getting close to discharge but was not quite ready to be let go from the hospital. He and his fiancée decided they didn’t want to wait any longer to get married so he got a two hour sabbatical from the hospital and went to a garden on the hospital grounds and got married. Before he left the unit, us nurses stood on both sides of the exit doors and sang, “Here Comes the Bride.” He wore a mask so we couldn’t see his smile but saw his eyes light up with happiness. In the midst of a tough life trial, he embraced a chance to celebrate.

Another story is of a woman who was getting ready to have a bone marrow transplant and would be in the hospital during the Christmas holiday, away from her young children. She decided to pick a different day to celebrate the holidays before going into the hospital. She got a tree and was able to watch her children open gifts. She harnessed the control she had in the situation and decided to celebrate on her terms, in the scope of her condition.

In both these examples, life didn’t unfold the way these people had anticipated; however they celebrated the things that were important to them in a different way.

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In my own life, I have looked for and coveted things to celebrate. During my treatment, even though I wasn’t always cheery, I did find some things to applaud. When I was constipated for three days from chemo and after finally having a bowel movement, I high-fived my significant other and did a happy dance in the living room. During the course of my treatment it was the Christmas season. Even in the midst of a time when I wasn’t feeling well, I would sit and admire lights on the Christmas tree, taking in their beauty. And, with a bandana on my bald head, I sat at my parents’ dining room table and decorated Christmas cookies with family, capturing the moments of fun. Even the little things can be celebrated.

I love taking photos and when I do I have the mind-set that this moment of what I am seeing and experiencing is a gift. I relish the time and capture it with a photo. During challenging times, I try and think of the simple things I am grateful for, things I don’t always remember that are gifts such as I have the ability to see, hear, read, and drive a car. And, I can even walk up a flight of stairs and when I drink water it tastes like water (during treatment this wasn’t the case). Whatever you choose to celebrate this Holiday season, I hope you encounter it with new eyes and embrace wonderful moments to celebrate.

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