The guilt-free Goodwin Christmas

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GAIlxmasfinal.jpgI've been an MD Anderson patient for close to four years and, in spite of it all, I've continued with our annual Christmas explosion. There's never been anything left undone ― from gifts for all, to decorations everywhere, to special goodies in the kitchen. Here's a secret: it hasn't always been fun.

Two years ago, my son and his wife gave me one of the best gifts ever. I walked in the back door after our trek home from a Dallas Thanksgiving and discovered a note on our kitchen door: "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!"

That was news to me. But when I walked inside, I soon understood what the message meant.

The 12 large plastic tubs full of decorations that live in my attic were now in the laundry room. I walked into the living room and found the Christmas tree with the lights sparkling and all ready to go.

What a present! Still working through the fatigue of my cancer, I hadn't been certain how I would get everything ready for the holidays. Having that shining tree up gave me the motivation I needed and we had a Christmas to remember.

Now, once again, it's the most wonderful time of the year. My fatigue is much better, but my right hip is not. I've decided to give myself a present.

I can start with what I do about decorating the house. It's a week-long chore that I have a love/hate relationship with. I won't even tell you about packing it all up again. But I've always done it.

Never say never
I have a distinct memory of the Christmas when my grandmother decided not to put up a tree. I was horrified. I would NEVER not have a Christmas tree.

Then my mother passed on the decorating, too, and settled for white lights on the fichus tree in the corner. This was a stunning revelation. Again, I was confident that I would NEVER not have a Christmas tree.

But now it's the year that our three children and their spouses celebrate with the in-laws. No one will be coming to ooh and ahh over all of my white lights, draped garland and zillions of ornaments collected over the years. I can't count on a surprise tree set-up this year.

I had my own epiphany.

Maybe I wouldn't put up a tree, either. Maybe I would invite my husband and myself to celebrate with our Dallas daughter and her young family, who will be staying at home this year. I could see my only (for now) grandchild discover the joys of cooking when Santa brings her a kitchen with all the trimmings.

Take the pressure off

I've cut back on the number of gifts I'm giving, and I've purchased most of them online. I even have a stack of wrapped presents that I enjoy looking at.

I'm not worrying about sending holiday cards. I think I might wait until after Christmas and write special New Year notes to those who sent me a Christmas card.

I'm hoping that I might have a friend who bakes and drops off some of those yummy cutout cookies with sprinkles.

I've decided to take the load off my back (and others!) and remember the reason for the season. I'm giving myself time to be thankful for my family, my faith and for my recovering health.

There will still be a fire in the fireplace every night. I found an adorable 3-foot, pre-lit tree. I know where to buy some delicious gingerbread cookies.

It's a guilt-free Goodwin Christmas for 2012 and I'm excited.

Read more posts by Gail Goodwin


Gail I really needed to read your story. This has helped me. This is my second round of chemo and now during the holidays:( but I have learned a lot through this all and what the true meaning it all about and what is important. Thanks Gail:)

Oh by the way Gail my uncle surprised me with a pre lit 4 in tree and pre lit garland the best gift :)

Hi, Gail. You sound so much like me! Whenever I have moved to a new house/apt. I always know just exactly where my tree will go! As I am fighting metastisized ACC to my lungs, it was more important than ever that I put up my 13-ft. tree this year though I knew it would totally exhaust me. It was a gift to my husband. He graduated from NC State so I gave him an NCSU tree -- team ornaments galore and the remainder of ornaments were red and white - NCSU colors. There were also lots of icicles and glass prisms, as well as 1500 lights! Garland was varigated red/white. The tree top was a mechanical gray and white dog that looked like a baby wolf (mascot) and had on a Santa hat. Most of the gifts were wrapped in red paper. My husband said it was the prettiest tree we have had in the 13 years that we have been married. I really hated to take it down -- for two reasons: I really miss it, and oh how I dislike having to pack it all up again.

What kind of treatment are you having now? My ACC started in my parotid gland which was removed in 2007. In April of 2012 we learned that it had metastisized to my lungs. I have been through several chemo infusions as well as two clinical trials (oral chemo). Though the lesions are growing slowly, nothing seems to really be helping. The one infusion that seemed to shrink the lesions landed me in hospital for several days because of a white cell crash. Right now I am waiting to hear from my Dr. at Duke to decide where we go next. I refuse to believe that there is nothing out there that works for those of us who have this disease. Thanks for being there and being available. Hope you have a great day.

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