Cancer, Cold Comfort, and the Holidays.

Updated: Dec 25, 2020

How are you holding up at the end of 2020? If the entire year weren’t difficult enough, we end it with a season that can bring so much strain on relationships, the image has become a trope. Throw in a cancer diagnosis and a family member or friend who is railing against the trustworthiness of the medical community, and you have the makings of severed ties. When I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2005, I knew my grandmother would not take the news without a lot of self-referencing drama. An undiagnosed Borderline, there was precious little room for anyone else’s emotions, and the job of picking up the pieces would be mine alone if she experienced reality full on. So, I simply told her that there were “cancer cells” in my colon and that there was nothing to worry about, that I would be fine. When I needed support the most, I created a work-around to spare myself the labor of propping up the family. That was 15 years ago. Most of my family members are long passed now, but the memory of that time sits in my chest like a hot coal.

If you are sharing holiday dinner with family this year at all, do you find yourself dreading it? After the figurative bullets have flown about COVID, the election, and vaccinations, do you expect to see your factual, objective diagnosis served up on the table so everyone can pick over it like the Christmas ham? I regret telling a fib to my family back in 2005, but that season in my life wasn’t the best for drawing lines the sand. I needed space in my head and heart to face the chemotherapy and radiation that was coming, so I engineered a buffer. If you need such a buffer, perhaps you can lean into the distancing of 2020 and create some space from the stress-inducing people in your life. Even better, if you have a “gatekeeper” that can be your emissary, you can enjoy some space without having to shut off all lines of communication. Either way, I hope you are able to exercise some of the best advice I have ever received in the therapist’s office: You are a grown adult; it is your right to NOT explain yourself.

Chin up. This too shall pass.

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