Every year when the time changes and the days get shorter and the nights longer, I start to feel it. By the time that the halls are decked with boughs of holly, now shortly before Thanksgiving, the season of airport delays, of frantic last minute shopping, of eating and drinking too much and then doing it again has begun, and with it, for many, the season of sadness. At a time when festivities and noise are ramping up in the outside world, the Cancer Center becomes curiously still and quiet.
No one wants to get chemotherapy and radiation for Christmas. It is far easier to ignore that lump or bump or missed mammogram than it is to schedule one more thing—a doctor’s appointment—when there are trips to take, family to visit and cookies to bake. And for those who have been recently diagnosed, it is rare that the treatment can’t wait a few weeks, just until “after the holidays.” Although the “C” word strikes terror into our hearts, most of the time cancer truly is not an emergency. This time of year, lunch breaks actually appear on my schedule, and the therapists cheerfully ring me up promptly at five to check the localization films for the day.
It isn’t hard to squeeze a new patient in this time of year, but when I get asked to do so, there is a very good chance that that patient is a little bit sicker, a little bit more symptomatic, a little bit more urgent and oftentimes a little bit younger than the average patient that I see though out the rest of the year. Especially if that patient is hospitalized. Every year, there is someone—a husband, a wife, a child, a brother—who won’t be home for the holidays.
And so tomorrow, when you raise your glass around the Thanksgiving table, and give thanks for all of the blessings you have, do not forget to give thanks for your good health and that of your family, if you are lucky enough to have it. And send out a prayer, or a positive thought, or an email or card to those who have not been so lucky. It will mean the world to them. Nobody wants cancer for Christmas.