“May your days be merry and bright, And may all your christmases be white”
The ghost of Christmas Future will hang around our table this year. As we decorate the tree, open our presents and sit down for lunch, I will not be the only one imagining what these same rituals will be like next December when I am no longer there. This is my last Christmas; 2015 is the last New Year I will see in. I am 36, my twin boys are not-yet-six, and I am dying from advanced colon cancer.
I have had this disease for over two years, but now I am drawing in like the December nights, knocking on the door of what Philip Gould called the death zone – the great winding down we all will face when we have weeks, not more, left to live. We found out last month that cancer was reproducing wildly in my colon, abdomen, lungs, liver and bone – ever the over-achiever, my disease has taken the opportunity of a break from chemotherapy to run riot. So, I have exited the world of Oncology, a known space of sage Professors and carousels of bright young Registrars seeking to nuke my disease with an aggressive phalanx of drugs. I enter the calmer, quieter world of Palliative Care; regular visits from the nurses at my local hospice, ever increasing doses of morphine in an effort to quell these terrifying new-found pains that travel my body. In this new world my quest is for liveable days, pleasant and comfortable hours and moments of snatched happiness.
The Christmas idyll is never an idyll, for any of us. So my promise this year is to enjoy all of it. These days that lead up to it, not just the main event. The grumpiness, anger and frustration with my best beloveds that are a reminder that I am alive and red blood still pumps through my veins. I am pale imitation of the energetic parent I once was, but there is still pleasure to be gained from Christmas as a spectator sport. Though my Christmases past are blissful memories, I do not need to live there. The present is no idyll, but it’s what we have. And I intend to enjoy it. May you all do the same.
Kate Gross died on the 25th December, 2014.