Tag Archives: holidays and cancer


Holidays are well intended.

A day set aside to celebrate our good fortune at belonging–to humanity and on a smaller scale, to a group of friends or better yet, a family.

However, if you’re estranged from family, have lost someone you love, or are just plain alone–holidays are a very different thing.

Salt to the wound.

Take Thanksgiving. I was born on Thanksgiving and for most of my life, it was my favorite holiday. Four months after my own diagnosis with lung cancer, my father Ollie was told he had pancreatic cancer. Almost four months to the day later he died, on Thanksgiving Day.

For years my family celebrated Thanksgiving in Marfa, Texas, where we owned a second home. Ten years ago I turned 50 there–on Thanksgiving. It was a flipping big deal because the summer before I had been told I had three to five months left to live. And here I was, the big Five Oh.

But the past six years have been entirely different. Mere months after I left my marriage, I lost my mother Evalynn as well. I became a de facto orphan and my own family unit–the one I helped create–had also been torn asunder.

When it comes to holidays, my children are more likely to spend time with my ex-husband. He lives closer to Boston, in a real house, and he prepares both a formidable Thanksgiving Turkey and a killer Christmas Ham. I get it.

And yet I don’t. I was the mom who went all out at Holidays. Not decorations (I am the anti-Martha Stewart) but rather details. My son August believed in not just Santa Claus, but also the Easter bunny, leprechaun, and tooth fairy. Fervently.

This year I was fortunate to spend Thanksgiving (and my birthday) with good friends. It was wonderful. My friends always come through.

But I missed my family. Terribly. And yesterday was a reminder not only of what I should be thankful for, but of what I have lost.

Bitter sweet.