Fourth of July meets Christmas

Happy Fourth!

Happy Fourth!

One good holiday deserves another.  Today is the Fourth of July.  And coincidentally we are up to Christmas Day 2001 in my journal reprint.  Yesterday my oldest son, Nathan, and his wife Coppelia left for their home in Boston.  Recently they gave us great news.  We’re expanding our role as grandparents, doubly it in fact.  They are having identical twins – around Christmas time.

We are almost finished painting the house next door.  My mother bought it and will be moving in soon.  Someone to help me care for Sophie and Isabel.  We found an old plastic sandbox set out for trash pickup.  Sophie and I cleaned it up and went to the hardware store for sand.

I gotten a lot of generous comments lately as well as inquiries to write guest posts.  I have also received solicitations to feature cancer books and sites.  Today I discovered someone in the Netherlands had my site translated into Dutch.  It was funny seeing the familiar layout accompanied by unfamiliar words.  It promises to be a rainy Fourth here.  So I may spend the day updating my WordPress software.  Hopefully the site will still be up on Monday.  Monday is Book Club day, of course.  We will be finishing up “The Last Lecture” and starting our July selection “The Adventures of Cancer Bitch”.  See the Book Club page for details.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Journal – Christmas Day 2001

Christmas Day – The weatherman’s prediction, or prognosis, for a white Christmas had been a slim chance to none. Yet on that morning when I “flung open the shutters and threw up the sash”, I beheld a “blanket of new fallen snow.”  It occurred to me that since the weatherman’s prognosis had proved faulty, so might my own.  I think that in that moment, looking out my bedroom window to the snow-covered street below, I felt for the first time a faint glimmer of hope.
A few weeks ago I had altered my Christmas list, asking for food items, bought or homemade, used items, anything handmade.  I asked for things scaled to my new life priorities.  I asked for more things from the heart and not the pocketbook.
Other Christmas traditions were preserved.  The “kids” (26, 23, and 16 years old)
crowded into our room to wake us by climbing on the bed.  I went downstairs first, this year accompanied by Tish, to light the tree and the mantle decorations, set the tea kettle and coffee pot on, and ready the camera.  The Christmas morning fire did not take place this year.  It seemed too big a task to me. We opened our stockings, poured our coffee and tea, selected Christmas cookies, and settled into our long-assigned places about the living room.  It was my Grandmother’s second Christmas with us.  Missing only was my mother’s dog, Beezer, kept away due to my immune deficiency.
Ben got me the relaxing water fountain I had asked for.  Nathan made me shortbread and stuffed them into two antique Chinese tins.  Aaron bought me a portable CD player that I thought would be invaluable for any future hospitalizations.  My best present was from Tish – a German-brand Leica point & shoot 35mm camera.  I had put it on my list as a joke as it costs $400, more than we usually spend on each other.  I had wanted one for several years but could not justify spending that much.  I scoured camera shops in Europe and the Middle East, hoping for an impossibly favorable exchange rate.  I wanted a simple but quality camera for my travels, something that I could keep in my pocket.  The Leica is the only small camera featuring glass lens elements.
Actually on the day of my diagnosis, on the way back home, I pessimistically suggested to Tish that she not buy me anything expensive for Christmas.  But having gotten the camera, I decided that it was ideal for recording this new journey of mine.  It was a way to record my treatments, my caregivers at the clinic and in hospital, my treatment companions, the visits of friends, return visits to my own hospital.
We finished opening our presents.  Then we had our traditional brunch –eggs, coffee cake, cinnamon rolls, orange juice, and the only time to the year we buy bacon, and it is turkey bacon at that.  This year I was relieved of both cooking and clean up duties.  I dozed off in my chair while the family prepared the brunch.
In the afternoon I watched the movie Shrek which Aaron had received as a present.  In the evening I went with the family for traditional Christmas dinner at Tish’s sister’s house.  I drove my truck myself in case I wanted to leave early.  But I made it through the evening of festivities, contributing to that increasingly elusive sense of normalcy.
I drove home in my own truck in the icy darkness on snow-slick streets.  I had made it through the holidays. I had had two near perfect days.  I managed to stay in the present, to be in the moment.  And I had kept my dark thoughts at bay.  Besides maybe there would be more Christmas’.  This day had started with a miracle of snow. Our Christmas traditions, which have defined as much as anything else our enduring sense of family, were preserved intact.
These two days gave me strength and a sense of groundedness.  These days helped to prepare me for the next ordeal.  Tomorrow I would go to the treatment clinic for the first time to resume my Campath treatments.  My appointment was at 8:00 in the morning.  What would it be like?  How would my new nurses be?  Would I see my doctor?  Would I react with fever, chills, and rigors?  Would I shake right out of those treatment chairs?
But driving home and then preparing for bed, I did not think of these things.  There was no need.  Tomorrow would come soon enough.  Today was still Christmas.


About Dennis Pyritz

Dennis W. Pyritz, RN, BA, BSN, has been a cancer nurse since 1987 and a cancer and bone marrow transplant survivor since 2004. In December 2001 he was diagnosed with t-cell prolymphocytic leukemia (T-PLL), a rare aggressive form of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Dennis was treated with the then new monoclonal antibody, alemtuzumab (Campath) as this disease has a median survival of 7.5 months. He achieved a 26 month remission but relapsed in February 2004. He was retreated with Campath and went into a second remission. In August 2004 he underwent an allogeneic peripheral blood stem cell transplant with his brother, Mark, as donor. Dennis has remained in remission since - a near miracle. Throughout his career as cancer nurse and patient, Dennis has had the opportunity to speal to both lay and professional groups. Dennis has spoken on cancer topics and survival issues across the country as well as in the United Kingdom, Norway, Austria, Portugal, Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, Trinidad, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Cyrpus, Israel, and India.


Fourth of July meets Christmas — 1 Comment

  1. Hello from Cancer Bitch. I am on the road, moving west from Bulgaria. I’m now in Berlin. Thanks for choosing my book! Let me know if you want me to join a discussion. All best for your blog,
    C. Bitch

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