Just Call Me The Grinch

I don’t get it.  Today as I was getting off the freeway, I passed a local farm stand that had just put up a big sign:  “Get Your Christmas Trees Here!”   And there they were, lined up like little soldiers, the beautiful Scotch pines, and Douglas firs, and balsams. How will they even last the five weeks until Christmas?  We haven’t yet had the food orgy we call Thanksgiving, but television ads for “Black Friday” already abound.  Does anyone else besides me want their holidays one at a time?  I’m still basking in a sugar coated candy corn stupor from Halloween.  Please let me enjoy my family, all gathered for Thanksgiving, before I have to think about braving the malls for glad tidings and gift buying.

The root of my problem– my crabbiness– (and after all, this IS the Crab Diaries) here is not Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or the shopping days in between.  It is my patients.  As the holiday season approaches, the pain and suffering of my patients seems to increase. This is a phenomenon that I have observed year after year.  At a time of year when a radiation therapy department, or an oncology chemotherapy infusion center would be—ideally—empty, we are bursting at the seams.  Why?  Because only the sickest of the sick will forego the holidays with their families and come in to the emergency room, the surgery center, the radiation therapy department or the infusion center for treatment.  The rest, the less acutely ill, will put off their biopsies, surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation until “after the holidays”.  As well they should.  Very little in cancer management is actually an emergency.

Those who know me will hopefully attest to the fact that I am not the “preachy” type.  But when I see the holiday excesses already beginning, in the form of a big sign advertising Christmas trees before the turkey is stuffed and the gravy is set on the table, I have to step up for those who will not be sitting at the table, or around the Christmas tree this holiday season.  If you know someone who has battled cancer this year, send extra thoughts, prayers and cards their way. Visit them, call them, text them—just let them know that you care.  And if you and your family are in good health, give extra thanks and may it always be so.

My birthday is in December.  I hate it—having a birthday five days before Christmas.  Those of you with December birthdays know exactly what I am talking about.  But every year since 1984, the year my daughter was born, I do see those candles on my cake as an opportunity, the magical opportunity for a birthday wish as I blow out the candles on December twentieth.  Every year, I wish for the same thing—I wish for the good health of the people I love.  I hope you all wish for the same thing for Christmas this year—truly, there is no greater gift.