Oncology for the Holidays


The holidays are here again, and cancer hasn't gone anywhere

So, they are here again, the holidays. Depending on how you grew up, your current relationship status, your current family drama or lack thereof, and a number of other variables usually outside of your control, this is either a great time of year, a stressful time or both. On top of that, let's add the nursing holiday schedule with all its trades, split shifts -- don't forget that Christmas and New Years are both on a weekend this year which always adds an interesting twist to who works what day. And what about the shopping… There is a 6 year old in my life whom I could watch open gifts all day. Her favorite gift I’ve ever bought for her is apparently a roll of glitter tape from the dollar store. If only all the people on my list were into glitter tape.

And then there is cancer. And regardless of how I feel about life, the holidays, relationships, plans, glitter tape, cash flow, family, and schedules, cancer is still there. Now that I think about it, so are a lot of things I’d rather not think about this time of year. Cancer doesn’t seem to take a break for the holidays, at least not that I’ve seen. Which means, we, the nursing community, don’t get to take a break from it either.

Cancer reminds us that life can be, and actually is, a bit out of control. You can pursue the perfect well laid out treatment plan with the most carefully chosen doctors and still find the cancer has metastasized. You can have a recurrence right before your kid’s wedding. You can lose your ability to eat, to eliminate, to sleep without pain. You could pass with family and friends holding your hand or alone in your bathroom. You can even beat it against all odds and walk away with a few surgical scars or a radiation tattoo. You could never have recurrence, or it could come back all over your body.

And while unpredictable holiday drama is nowhere near as important as whether a tumor has metastasized or not, we all find ourselves in situations where the unpredictable has happened. The sinking feeling of hearing bad news or of wondering how did it get to this, or how did it go so far? I’m stuck with this tumor, this debt, this bad decision, this major mistake, something has happened and I can’t make it unhappen. And then there are the wins, often just as unpredictable, when nothing looked like it would turn out and somehow, it just did. Cancer free, out of debt, interpersonal difficulty solved.

We are all a community of people going through this unpredictable life together. Whether you are a patient, a nurse, or both, you are not alone. We are all finding what we most look forward to and what we most wish to avoid in this unpredictable world. So, this holiday season, as much as possible, I plan to hold my loved ones, spend time with my friends, and buy more glitter tape.

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