“Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing but of reflection.” – Winston Churchill
There is something reverent about Christmas and the end of the year. It’s a sacred time for me, where memories of the past year come flooding back and I get to really think about the year’s events. Needless to say the end of 2015 gave me plenty to mull over. I approached this with a sense of gratitude and acknowledgment of just how lucky I’d been to catch my bowel cancer early.
While I’ve been better at looking after my health at different times in my life than others, I can say that I probably wasn’t doing all I could to remain healthy. For starters I let other people’s problems and shortcomings weigh on me. As an empath it’s hard not to – I sense the undercurrents and they worry me, whereas a ‘normal’ person would not give someone’s mood another thought. They certainly wouldn’t feel responsible for it, which is how I have been in the past. Let me give you an example: if someone is angry, worried or sad I know it when they enter a room, without them saying anything, and I try and fix it. You can’t ‘fix’ other people, nor take responsibility for their path, but I used to try. Now I acknowledge that it is their path to walk and that I have enough of my own worries to try and ‘fix’. I’m much more willing to see that I (like everyone else) am a precious human soul that needs nurturing, loving and looking after.
So I’ve hit that particular problem out of the ball park, thank God.
Next, I have a hedonistic bent to my nature – I love wine and food but too much of a good thing is never a good thing and I’ve let my over indulgences interfere with my good health. Now I’m less inclined to give into weaknesses. A life of ‘limitation’ is only as limiting as you make it. Now, I replace vice with victory and have a fruit smoothie instead of a chocolate and a mineral water and ice instead of a wine. That’s not to say that I don’t allow myself the occasional treat – I do – and, guess what – it tastes and feels twice as good.
So, yeah, I’ve knocked that particular problem on the head – well mitigated it, at least…hopefully.
And then there is exercise, or lack of it. Now I walk daily and one of my best Christmas presents was a Vivofit which is getting a workout. I am now walking at least three to four kilometers a day – this activity from a couch potato who upon remembering the competitive sports of youth, hit the gym or pool hard…for all of a couple of months of the year. I now understand that exercise is a daily requirement.
However, one of the biggest reflections for me this Christmas was in gratitude. I experienced and felt everything more keenly, all the while with a heart filled with gratitude for life. I may have had to pop the dreaded chemo pills over Christmas but that didn’t stop me trying to give as much as I could to my family. I did this because I knew that had my diagnosis been different, I may have been absent this Christmas or struggling to survive.
I cooked the most beautiful turkey, stuffed with a ham, onion, herb and garlic mixture and I basted a huge ham with the best glaze that I’ve used year after year because it is so divine. My husband and I shopped up a storm, buying treats like individual Christmas puddings which were absolutely beautiful, and the Christmas staples like Panettone, a wonderful European invention.
I allowed myself a couple of glasses of sauvignon blanc which I sipped slowly through dinner and the hilarious card games which followed. I had a good Christmas despite the chemo.
But behind the positive there was also a sense of the magnitude of what I experienced in 2015. I tried not to look too hard, or think too long, about this. There was the awful radiation and chemo, the huge six hour operation and the mop up chemo when your body has, simply, had enough but asked to stay in the ring and ‘go a few more rounds’. As always, I returned to that feeling of gratitude; that cancer is commonplace and I had faced it and survived to this point…and my prognosis was good. I thought instead of how much I’d grown spiritually as a result of cancer; that I’d felt invisibly supported by something greater than what we can realise here on earth. Of all the signs and omens that had been placed in my path to testify that ‘yes, you are going to be ok; you are going to survive this’.
That’s what I thought over Christmas and as the New Year rang in. I thought about something higher than myself and yet of myself. I am very lucky to be able to use my cancer experiences to grow spiritually, and as a human being. Cancer has not silenced me; on the contrary it has given me my voice.
As 2015 ticked over to 2016, I wondered what purpose I had yet to fulfill. I don’t have that answer yet, but I do know that the right things happen at the right time.
I’m looking forward in 2016, not backwards. I’ll be continuing some tertiary study – because the uni that I kept asking for deferrals said ‘study this semester or lose your place’. That’s a good thing. I’m looking forward to it and I will be one step closer to earning my Bachelor of Social Sciences (Social Welfare).
I’ll also be working hard at my current workplace, on work that really does matter and that does good rather than causes harm to people. And I’ll be finishing my treatment. Chemo ends on 12 January, wherein I will purchase a nice bottle of champagne to share with family.
There will be a few milestones in the early part of the year before treatment finishes and then I will have time to think about how I am fully going to use my experiences to help others. There is purpose left for me to find and act upon yet.