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Home For Christmas 2020

I am a PTCL (Peripheral T-Cell Lymphoma) Survivor. I was first diagnosed in September 2018. I went through therapy, which put me into remission. Unfortunately, I relapsed, and it took months of different trial drugs to find one that would put me back into remission. Thankfully, my oncologist did not give up on me, nor did I give up on myself.

Of Course I Still Believe In Santa!
Of Course I Still Believe In Santa!

Anyone who has been through this journey understands the cloud that hangs over everything you do, waiting, hoping, and praying for negative test results. Then, finally, I got mine again. The fight to get back into remission was tough, and once I was there, I needed to go directly into transplant for any hopes of it sticking.

While I was cursed with the "c" word, I was blessed by finding a kind and generous donor who was a 10 for 10 match. But, unfortunately, my blessings were to be tested, as this was right at the height of the Covid Pandemic. I would lose my entire immune system right in the middle of a global pandemic; what could go wrong?

I was scheduled to have my transplant during the month of December. So I would not be home to pick out a tree, for decorating the house, do Christmas shopping, or wake up on Christmas morning with my kids. So being away from the family for the Christmas holiday would be a sacrifice. However, not being home for the Christmas holiday ever again was not something I was willing to accept.

I believe in Christmas blessings. For my transplant to be successful, the following events all had to line up:

  • I had to remain in remission, which was not guaranteed.

  • I had to stay Covid-free, which would be tricky.

  • My donor had to be willing to donate during the pandemic.

  • My donor also had to remain Covid-free.

  • A room on the transplant floor needed to be available because the transplant staff took time off for the holidays.

After a somber Thanksgiving, my family and I had a small makeshift Christmas. We tried and check off our traditions, like:

Cutting Our Tree Before Thanksgiving
Cutting Our Tree Before Thanksgiving

  • Chopping down a Christmas tree, we were the first ones to take a tree home from that farm.

  • Decorating the house, although it was minimalist, it was quaint.

  • Giving gifts, on the eve of leaving for the transplant, the only gift I wanted was a chance to come home.

Once I joined the macabre club of stem cell transplants, the only gift I wanted for Christmas was to come home. Instead, I spent Christmas 2020 kneeling in the bathroom, coughing blood. As horrible as this sounds, some of my transplant floor compatriots did not make it home after Christmas.

Sitting on my bed, alone and wrapped in a thin white hospital blanket, I stared out my window. Then, finally, I realized the true meaning of Christmas. Of course, decking the halls and opening presents are special, and we still do these things today. But I knew I was blessed because I was alive that Christmas morning, waking up to the hum and beep of hospital machines playing their twisted Christmas carols.

The true meaning of Christmas is how we choose to live, not what we receive. It is the gift of a stranger to give me a second chance at life; it is the faces of my family, even though I could only see them on a screen; it is the tender care of the nurse who spent her Christmas morning with me.

I changed that Christmas physically, emotionally, and more. I learned to let the small things go and be thankful and satisfied with what I have. Christmas is about giving, not presents or things, but a gift that will last no matter where you are, love.

Celebrating Christmas before the 1st of December.
Celebrating Christmas before the 1st of December.

Cheers, Jon

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