There are so many things that make a Holiday season.
I think we become more aware of those who are in need of a helping hand. We reach out and dig into our pockets when we pass a bell ringer who brings attention to the Salvation Army kettles. We open our closets and find gently worn coats and heavy sweaters that don't belong there but could do so much good wrapped around someone who is in search of some warmth on a cold night.
What do we do for our friends who are looking at a cancer diagnosis and wondering how to sort out all the information that's just been dropped in their lap?
Cancer can ruin a Holiday season....if we let it.
So, we have to try and stop it before it happens. A friend of mine is in the midst of getting a new treatment plan for a newly diagnosed mass in his chest. His family is the best. They have supported him and searched for the best doctors and have asked all the right questions. I've tried to offer up my knowledge from experience and I hope it's helped a little. But more than anything, I've tried to "lift" the family as best I can.
That's what we do here at "Our Cancer." We're the best "lifters" around. Our time in cancer world has seasoned us.
It is in the spirit of this season, that I will be there for them. I won't let cancer invade their Holiday time.
We would be at the pool in Maui and hanging just over the water would be my foot and Leroy's foot So I took a picture.
Over the years I must have taken 50 pictures of just our feet. The palm trees and Maui's blue sky would be the back drop for many of these photos.
When I returned with his ashes six years ago, our Maui friends presented me with a pendant made from the glass of the volcano's ash on the Big Island and inside the glass pendant, when it's held up to the light are two feet. It's a very special gift I carry with me every single day.
Now next to me, at the desk where I'm typing this right now, I look to my right and there are two perfectly sculpted tiny feet. They were made by an artist who works in metals. They're perfect feet and one is a step ahead of the other.
I don't remember placing them in that position: maybe they were pushed around a little after I cleaned up yesterday. But I look at them now and think about the seasons that have passed and the experiences I've had on my own. It's been like growing up all over again.
These little feet represent my changing world. They have shown me how to take one step at a time.
We live in such a wide open world these days.
There's email, twitter, Facebook and a slew of other outlets. We share everything, in fact, the phrase TOO MUCH INFORMATION comes to mind in this tabloid world of ours.
And then there's cancer world. We're not so fast at sharing that part of our lives. Cancer still carries with it a stigma that stops folks from opening up about their cancer.
We've all met exceptions to that rule: Leroy was one of them, but his daily blog didn't happen immediately. When a friend of his at NPR asked him if he'd ever thought about writing a blog shadowing his daily living with cancer, he took a few days to think about it. He wasn't sure his message would make a difference. He wasn't sure he could convey his feelings in a way they would help others. He wondered would anyone relate? Indeed they did!
We have to learn to share all over again when we're in cancer world. It's such a private, scary diagnosis and when you hear the words "You have cancer," the last thing you want to do is tell the world.
But it's important to share. It does help. New patients and their care givers don't know what they're in for and if you can give them just a few nuggets of knowledge about what's to come in treatment or side effects or daily living with cancer, you are doing a good deed.
Experience counts in cancer.
Spread the word.
Have you looked at the calendar lately?
Tonight is the first light of Hanukkah and Christmas is just a little more than a week away.
Ready or not, "Tis the season."
Around my neighborhood, plenty of houses are twinkling with multi-colored lights or strings of those white icicles lights that blink in the night. There's a few huge inflatable penguins, Santa's and Teddy bears rocking back and forth, trying to stay upright on the lawns. The lightest breeze can cause them to tumble across the yard.
I braved a couple of shopping areas today. Earlier in the afternoon, when it was raining, it was the perfect time to get out and shop because no one likes to be outside in a down pour. It's so much easier to wait until tomorrow when the weather will be better.
Later this afternoon, the kids were out of school and they were out in force darting in and out of the stores.
The little ones love to hang on to their Mom's and point to every toy within reach, just in case the list hasn't been filled yet.
It's really a great time of year, if you let it be: Finding just the right gift, enjoying old friends, baking holiday cookies or planning a special holiday meal.
Above all, looking around your world and giving thanks.
It was a gathering of the best in the business.
In fact they once were considered just that in a time and place in television news when journalism and journalists meant something different than it does today.
They hadn't been under the same roof for a long time and the vibe in the room was electric.
The invitation said it was a Holiday party and it was a beautiful party, but for me it was so much more. It woke up a place in me that had quietly tip-toed away: a place I never really expected to revisit again, any time soon.
These were Leroy's people, for the most part, his hand-picked, talented producers that made "Nightline" the unique broadcast that it was when he was at its helm as executive producer.
Storytelling of old times and exciting travels filled the room. Like buzzing bees moving from flower to flower, they caught-up one by one, to find out about new jobs and changing lives. And there were the Leroy stories: remembering his contribution to this family.
They worked together night-in and night-out. They traveled to the most challenging places where they made headlines come alive on television. They were a unit....They ARE so talented.
I found myself sitting in a chair just looking around the room, not really able to hear one conversation, but all of them at once.
All I could think of was where was that one booming voice that could rise above the others?
I don't think I've ever missed him more.
They say the Holidays bring out the best and some times the worst of times.
I remember so clearly the day Leroy realized his cancer had spread to the point of no return.
He thought about how he would or could say good-bye to family and friends.
Contemplating a final good-bye is a daunting task.
There were so many wonderful people who had stayed by his side during his illness. These were pals who would come to sit by his bed and just be with him. If he was sleeping, that was OK. There was no need for conversation. This was a man who had bonds that went far beyond conversation. These visitors had shared life and death experiences with Leroy in places around the world where actions spoke louder than words, so their presence was the perfect seal.
It was a bond.
I watched these silent good-bye's take place in this house and they were heart breaking.
In another house, three thousand miles away, this past weekend, I found myself in a similar situation.
Cancer has returned to spread it's grip on a very old, dear friend of mine and I went to say "good-bye." Seeing him thin and pale and no longer talking about living was so sad for me. This man was always the most vibrant, talkative, energy-filled force in the room. His prostate cancer has spread to his bones so it hurts to move. The cancer has found a home in vital organs too. My friend knows his life is winding down.
So there we were talking about old times. There's nothing wrong with his mind, so the details of covering Super Bowls and World Series and all sorts of sports events were fresh, just like they happened yesterday instead of 25 years ago. We laughed until it came time for me to leave.
It was time to say "good-bye."
A hug and a kiss on the cheek just didn't seem right. It wasn't enough of a "good-bye" after sharing in some one's life for so many years.
How brave he was to say "good-bye." I couldn't do that. I could only hang-on for one more hug.
You think you have a grip on life without your loved one. So much work has gone into creating a different life without him and for the most part you've been pretty successful. There will always be some pieces that can't be replaced.
And then, the calendar flips over to December and all the pangs of Holidays past begin to tug on the memory pages of your heart.
Remember the hunt for the perfect tree...together? Remember decorating the tree...together? Or sharing a glass of wine as the house magically morphs into something special for the season? Remember the invitations that were addressed to the two of you? Being a one instead of a two has its impact to be sure.
A friend mentioned how she has recreated her Holidays since her husband has been gone. Cancer took him away, but she feels like their friends now treat her as if she disappeared along with him. She says for her, it's been one of the hardest parts of being on the RE-assembly line of widowhood.
"I'm still here."
I can relate to that and I'm sure many other widows would get in line with us.
It's probably harder this time of year just because it's "this time of year."
Maybe we all need to do a sweatshirt with the words "I'm still here" on it....might be the start of something big.
Then we can all go out and raise a glass to "us".....with out "them."
No matter what the season.....
To describe him would be to use the word "gentle."
He puts the "gentle" in gentleman in every way I can imagine.
He's not a young man, but he thinks young. He's got a wonderful family. They are a fun, happy unit who celebrate with gusto and circle the wagons when one of them is in need of support.
He's had a strong, genuine, beautiful woman by his side for decades. They go together so perfectly, anyone who knows them, can't mention one name without the other.
Cancer has found its way into this gentle man's chest. It's just been a few days since his diagnosis and even though the sting of those "You have cancer" words still resonate through this family tree, they have wasted no time seeking strong medical advice and a line of treatment that will vigorously defend against this beast.
There have been scans, biopsies, pathology explanations and the beginnings of a protocol targeted to his cancer.
As saddened and shaken as this man's family is, they have rallied to the call to take action. They "get it." Aggressive acts of destruction against this mass will be the only way to give their gentle man more life: quality life.
And so he begins his journey through cancer world. There's no way of telling how this will go: he's in for some hard times.
He's also surrounded by loved ones, who "lift," not just from the heart, but from the head too. These are care givers and advocates who will do their homework to insure his treatment is the best it can be and that is what drives cancer crazy.
What can be better than that for this gentle man?
Wishing one and all a very Happy Thanksgiving...
And so the season begins....
The "Holidays" are upon us and if there is ever a time when we need each other to lean on, it's now.
So many things just get bigger this time of year. Many of us are preparing for Thanksgiving in the next couple of days and even in the preparation, the memories grow. Leroy was the turkey carver at this house. What is it about a guy and a carving knife? He knew what he was doing in a kitchen and I miss seeing him there.
So I can come here and write about it and it feels right. We've always been able to remember at OUR CANCER and be comfortable doing so.
I know some of you will be without a loved one for the first time this year. The sorrow is palpable. This is when family and friends and that word "lifting" comes into play.
For the rest of us, who now have years separating our loved ones from these special dates on the calendar, we've figured out ways to buffer most of our sadness: "most" being the key word here.
So be careful when you're out tomorrow making all those last minute stops. If you're in the northeast, the snow gods are threatening to make an appearance just for the fun of it, so give it an extra car length just because you can.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving.