A Christmas Prayer for Patients With Cancer

The staff did their best to make the institution festive. There were decorated trees and windows and lights and Christmas music, but it wasn’t the same. I missed my own house with my own tree and my own decorations. I missed my wife and my daughter. I missed my dogs. I missed my cat, but I’m pretty sure he never gave my absence a second thought. It was a lonely time for me, maybe the loneliest of all.

But going through chemotherapy treatment for cancer (non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma) made me think differently about the message of Christmas, the way Scrooge’s nightly encounter with the three spirits changed the way he thought about Christmas. The capitalism of the holiday—all the getting and spending—didn’t seem to matter as much as it used to. After all, I might not survive my cancer. What would become then of the trinkets I received under the tree? What use would another neck tie or wristwatch or coffee mug do for me? What need would I have for a box of hot sauce or BBQ sauce? Would another ugly Christmas sweater or bottle of cologne save me? I started to ponder the meaning of life and the role Christmas plays in that meaning. In the end, I came to believe that the meaning of life is to live, to experience and to be grateful for every single day we are given, and to use our days to help and uplift those around us, most importantly the ones we love and who love us. If you want my humble opinion, I believe we exist more fully and gratefully when we love everything and everyone all the time and all at once.

I remember sitting by the window on the eighth floor of the hospital looking out on the snow-blanketed campus and jotting down a poem about what I was beginning to understand. At one point, I walked all over the hospital with a notepad jotting down more lines, until the poem finally came together. Throughout my six months of hospitalizations for cancer treatment, I penned dozens of poems. It was good medicine for my soul. Running from the Reaper: Poems from an Impatient Cancer Survivor was published in the spring of 2023, only a couple months after I “rang the bell.” The slender book would be a marvelous Christmas gift to anyone who has recently been diagnosed with cancer, going through cancer treatment, who has recovered from cancer, and for those who care for others with cancer, including medical staff. The collection includes the poem I wrote during Christmas:


This Christmas, I don’t care about

a stuffed stocking hanging on the fireplace mantle

or colorful gifts piled beneath the tree.

What I really want is for this tumor to go away.

Let it never come back.

Let me live to accomplish some dreams.

Let me love and be loved.

I still have things I want to do,

places to go,

plans to complete

and new friends to meet.

Some things in life matter more

only when faced with losing them forever.

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