This Year, I’m Ready to Risk Being Excited About the Holidays
Before my double-lung transplant four years ago, I approached holiday seasons with trepidation. I wanted to spend holidays at home with my loved ones, so I’d do my best to stay healthy, as it always felt like one wrong step could land me in the hospital. But being in control of my cystic fibrosis was an illusion.
Looking back, it makes sense why excitement for the season wasn’t really on my radar. I didn’t have the luxury of simply worrying about what gifts to buy others for Christmas. I felt a lot of pressure to stay well.
Staying healthy for the holidays was an impossible standard, though. I felt a responsibility to attend celebrations and be with my friends and loved ones. I was met with nervous half-jokes that didn’t strike me as funny. “Try not to end up in the hospital again this year, Lara.” Ha-ha. But I wasn’t laughing — my gut was churning with anxiety about getting sick yet again.
I carried around a suitcase of guilt because my chronic illness had stolen so many moments from me.
That guilt was part of the reason why I never wanted anyone else to miss out on holiday celebrations. I didn’t want anyone to interrupt their holiday or sacrifice their plans because of me. I didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. I was content being alone.
But I was never really alone. In the hospital, the staff treated me like family. Several brought plates of food from their floor’s potluck. They sat with me, and together we laughed and cried and everything else in between. I wasn’t the only one who was missing out on the holidays. The dedicated staff members were, too. And their camaraderie was comforting.
If I’m being honest with myself, I felt a twinge of heartache when I talked to loved ones on the phone. I told them I was fine and didn’t need them to spend time with me. They believed me, though a part of me wished they hadn’t, and decided to show up anyway. But I genuinely wanted my loved ones to enjoy their holidays. It was bad enough I had to deal with health issues. I didn’t want anyone else to suffer, too.
I’m just thankful they couldn’t see my face during the phone chats. I didn’t want them to see the sadness that welled up in my eyes because I missed them. In the background, I could hear all the fun being had without me, and that would drive the pain a bit deeper into my heart. It was easier not to talk to them.
But this year, things will be different. This year, I’m actually daring to get excited about Christmas. My confidence is boosted by my relatively stable health, so I’m not as worried about staying healthy. I started working earlier this year, so I have extra funds to spend on my loved ones. I’m tired of being cautiously excited about holiday celebrations. I want to live in the present and experience the full joy of Christmas without the fear of getting sick gnawing at my subconscious.
I know I could still get sick, but it feels strangely safe at this point in my life to trust that I will be home for Christmas.
Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.