To paraphrase the late, great John Lennon…
And so, that was Christmas
But, what did you eat?
Man, I love me some Christmas dinner!
It’s the King of all dinners. You can even have a turkey crown! (Wahey!)
Kirsty makes the roast dinners to end all roast dinners. Her roast potatoes, in particular, are incredible. Plus, she always cooks sprouts and parsnips – even though I’m the only one in the family who eats either of them!
But, as many of you will know, I’ve been unable to eat any kind of solid food since the middle of May. Don’t get me wrong – I’m trying – and I’ve even managed a few teaspoons of soup here and there. But, anything more solid than that is a no go.
So, last Sunday, I had to sit and (try not to) watch as Kirsty and the boys tucked into their roast turkey with all the trimmings.
I had a few tropical flavour milkshakes to pour down my stomach tube.
We tried blending some turkey, potato and gravy for the tube, but that didn’t work. It was either too thick, or ended up a warm, brown water.
I will admit to ending up in tears.
Not because I’m greedy, or was jealous of my own family (they genuinely offered not to have Christmas dinner if it was going to upset me, but I turned that suggestion down flat).
I cried because I am so utterly fed up with being unwell all the bloody time.
It’s never ending.
Not a day goes by without some stark reminder that cancer has turned my entire life – and the lives of all those around me – completely upside down.
Whether that’s getting a swollen tongue, being in pain with more mouth ulcers, having a coughing fit (blood stained tissues optional), feeling weak, being unable to sleep, being unable to stay awake, high temperatures, hallucinations from said high temperatures – or one of dozens of other long-lasting, ongoing, never sodding going away symptoms of my illness.
And Christmas brought it all to a head.
I’ve never felt so alone while surrounded by my own family as I did last Sunday.
Actually, that’s not true. It started in the run up to Christmas (which begins in what, March, now?) I couldn’t take part in any Christmas shopping, for example. OK, so I don’t enjoy shopping at the best of times, and especially when the shops are packed at this time of year. But I would still like the option to do it, rather than have that choice taken away from me.
I wanted to help out, but simply couldn’t.
I was able to pick out presents for the boys, and for my nieces and nephews – but then had to sit out while Kirsty bought them, tested them, inserted batteries, wrapped them, etc.
Plus, having now not worked for almost ten months, this ended up being a very slender Christmas for us, as you might imagine.
We couldn’t get the boys everything they’d wanted, or that we wanted to get for them. Not that we ever go overboard, or simply buy them everything on their lists – but this year we had to compromise and economise more than we’ve ever had to before.
That’s a crappy feeling. Especially because both boys were so amazingly understanding about it when we explained it to them in the run up to the big day.
Cue tears, again. Mine, not theirs.
One thing we always look forward to is decorating the Christmas tree. Kirsty usually puts the tree up and adds the lights, then the boys go to town on the decorations while I play a selection of seasonal songs and supervise. Then we switch to karaoke versions of the tracks and have a good old Christmas sing-a-long in the newly twinkling lights.
Because I’m still sleeping in my NHS hospital bed in the living room, we didn’t have enough room for our usual tree. Not unless we could somehow get rid of the bed and I found a way to nest in the lower branches each night.
So – compromise time again – we picked up a smaller, tabletop tree which the boys were able to decorate before Noddy had time to screech “It’s Chriiiiisssssttmmaaaaassss!”
I switched over to the karaoke tracks, but I couldn’t speak the words, let alone sing them. After a few goes each, the boys went to their bedrooms to play on their games consoles and I switched off the music.
On Christmas morning, I like to video proceedings for future viewing, always starting the footage as I head downstairs to ‘see if Father Christmas has been’. I can’t do stairs anymore, so had to film the unwrapping from the armchair where I now spend a good 75% of my life. Not a big change, I know, but another little reminder that things were different this year.
And that wasn’t the end of it.
A wee dram to celebrate the big day? Nope. A sneaky mince pie as I put one out for Santa? No chance. Going for a potter around heavily-laden stalls of the Christmas market? Not a hope.
A nibble on Rudolph’s carrot? Not since the court case and restraining order…
Despite the changes to our usual festivities, Kirsty and the boys threw themselves into the fun and had a great time. And I really wish that I had been able to do the same – but I just couldn’t.
All I could think about was how I’d caused this. Not purposefully, of course. I know that. But, everyone was having to make sacrifices because I can’t fight off the effects of this cancer shit.
And I hated the fact that I was potentially going to spoil it all for them by feeling this way!
Now, I know what you’re saying – that I shouldn’t be thinking like that, and that it isn’t my fault at all, and how everything will be back to normal next year…
Except – I’m not sure that it will be any better next year. Or the year after that.
I’m starting to become convinced that this is as good as I’m going to get. That I simply won’t get any better than this.
It does happen to some cancer patients; they never fully recover the ability to eat or speak.
That’s if I’m still here for another Christmas.
And, let me tell you, that’s a jolly thought to flash across your mind as you watch your kids unwrap their presents.
The cancer could easily return and, the longer this all goes on for, the more certain I am that that’s exactly what will happen.
By then, all I could think about is how awful the family’s Christmas would be if the worst did come to the worst.
Cue: more tears.
So, that was my Christmas 2016. It’s almost over, thank goodness; tomorrow is New Year’s Eve, when I once again won’t be able to celebrate with anything more exotic than a tasteless milkshake or three.
I’m not sure whether to look forward to 2017 or not. It surely can’t be any worse than this year has been.
Please believe me, I’m really trying not to feel sorry for myself. I just wasn’t expecting Christmas to hit home quite so hard.
Thanks – as ever – for reading and putting up with my self-obsessed ranting. I’ll try to post something a little more positive next time.
PS – Please do check out my Patreon link up at the top right of this page. I’ve got some fun goodies lined up for my supporters in January.