Is It Wrong to Be Sad on Christmas?

(Three weeks after my salpingo-oophorectomy and two years after my diagnosis of breast cancer. This was the first blog post I ever wrote.)

I’ve only cried once today. That’s not too bad. But the day is not yet done. Today, again, I’m thinking of the things that cancer has taken from me. First, let me say that I am well aware of the blessings I have. I remember them each and every minute of every day. They are what keep me going, keep me fighting. But today, again, I’m pulled into what’s gone, what’s irretrievable, what’s changed.

The body parts are gone, of course. My feeling of immortality. Of safety, of security. I’m vulnerable now. And I feel it. Part of me wants to blaze down I-95 at 100 miles an hour because I’ve stared down cancer, so what can touch me now? Taking risks is a popular grief reaction. On the other hand, a part of me wants to curl up in bed and not come out.

Today, on Christmas, when the childlike wonder is all around, I feel like I am watching it from high above me, as it happens TO ME, around me.

I know I’ll be fine . . . everyone tells me so, as if to will it to be that way. Even in my darkest moments I know it is only temporary. But I am angry at cancer. Angry at the bad twist of fate that makes me unable to travel this year, unable to be myself, unable to shake this feeling that the dark cloud just seems to keep following me, like those creepy paintings in the museum whose eyes seem to follow your every move.

And knowing the other people who are similarly sad today, those who are remembering loved ones lost, and those who are suffering in pain, and those who will head in for more chemo and surgery and therapies before the year is out are also forever changed by the great equalizer of cancer.

To anyone who reads this and thinks it sounds so odd, so foreign—something that happens to “someone else”—I am so happy for you. I am jealous of you. I remember that feeling, but I am almost getting to the point where I am unable to remember it. I never thought it would be me thinking this way, feeling this way. But it is me. And it’s taking a long time to grieve for that life I thought I would have.

Maybe that’s what it is.

I’m in mourning.

I’m mourning the life I thought I would have.

And only time can help that.

Mark Bonchek