The Things We Avoid, Like Christmas and Cancer

“I want to do Christmasy stuff,” my friend Jenny texted me. “Keep me in the loop!”

“Ha ha, I don’t!” I texted back. “Maybe you will inspire me.”

I didn’t haul out the bins full of Christmas things last year because my kids spent the holiday at their dad’s house, where there’s plenty of Christmas going on. My kids weren’t happy with our undecked house, and I had no good answer when they asked what had happened to my Christmas spirit.

It’s happening again this year. I hear the carols, but it feels like everyone else’s holiday. I’m amused by, even grateful for, the light shows in my neighborhood, but I can’t motivate to buy a wreath. I borrowed a little purple Christmas tree from my son’s friend.

I’m avoiding. It’s my favorite tactic for dealing with things (like Christmas…and Jenny’s cancer) that fill me with angst.

Nearly two years ago, Jenny’s oncologist (we joke that “my” and “oncologist” are two words you never want to use together) told her she had a 50 percent chance of surviving two years. She has ovarian cancer, and she’s on her third round of chemotherapy. She’s not hoping for a cure.

Jenny pushes her doctor for information, though it’s not always what she wants to hear. (It’s hardly ever, in fact, what she wants to hear.) This week they had a frank discussion.

A year and a half has somehow slipped by since Jenny’s diagnosis. We’ve been saying she has a good year and a half for a good year and a half now. Things could blow up within months, the oncologist said.

Jenny looks tired but does not seem months away from dying. I have misplaced anger (which actually feels like a step up from avoidance) for her doctor.

“She didn’t need to tell you that, right before Christmas,” I said to Jenny.

I’ve been holding—grasping, really—onto this year and a half that we have.

“I pushed her,” Jenny said, but I’m still mad. And sad. And so many things that I want to pretend I’m not because it’s too painful.

This could be my last Christmas with Jenny. Sometimes we joke that she at least gets to know this, while it could be true for any of her 590 Facebook friends. None of us knows.

“I hate that I get complacent,” I texted Jenny.

“Don’t we all,” Jenny texted back.

Christmas is not in the bins full of ornaments and stockings that I may or may not haul out of storage. It’s not in the Hundred Dollar Holiday or any of the other ways I’ve been trying to give it meaning.

Christmas is in my love for Jenny, who shows me again and again how the world opens up when you say yes to it.

Jenny’s cancer could blow up in the next couple of months, or it could not. We don’t know.

I want to do Christmasy stuff.

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One Response to The Things We Avoid, Like Christmas and Cancer

  1. Karen says:

    Christmas seems to have little for me since I became Buddhist, but I still hold onto the phrase that was in a cartoon. “I don’t care about the material things in life but I do like the stuff”. I like the lights and the glitz and a present or two. I think the biggest gift you an Jenny may have is each other, and one day at a time. I always love your blog…you give me things to think about.

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