Share the Gift of Healing Christmas Love

Thursday December 15, 2016

Our CEO, Abby White, shares her mother’s memory of healing Christmas love when Abby was an infant being treated for eye cancer, and some helpful hints to support families in need this year.

A seasonal greeting framed with gold bells, gilded baubles, gold fircones and lush foliage. The message reads: wishing you comfort and joy this holiday season.

A Christmas Memory

When I was a baby, I was in hospital for weeks in the run-up to Christmas, receiving treatment for eye cancer and complications arising from the treatment.  My mother had no time to buy Christmas gifts or food for Christmas dinner.  Her focus was on caring and advocating for me.

My father worked hard every day to keep the family solvent and take care of my active toddler sister.  Spare time was invested in trips on public transport into London to see my mother and me in the hospital (he couldn’t drive as he was totally blind due to retinoblastoma in infancy).  He had no spare energy or time to buy a tree and decorate the house – didn’t even know if we’d be home for Christmas.

Finally, my parents learned that I would be released from hospital on December 23rd.  My mother was suddenly panicked – what would she do, how would she prepare everything in just one day, with a still recovering baby and an excited toddler?  She shared her worries with a close family friend as she prepared for the return home.  Imagine her surprise and gratitude when her friend replied that everything was already arranged – our entire family was to spend Christmas with this dear lady and her husband.

These incredibly thoughtful people had worked with my father to prepare gifts for each of us.  They had involved my sister in decorating their home, and were ready to collect us from the hospital as soon as the doctors said I could leave.  I was too young to have any memory of that Christmas, but I can hear in my mother’s retelling of it, how special it must have been.  I can see the lights twinkle and taste its sweet delights in her words.

The gift of friendship, thought, action and quiet (or rowdy, joyful) presence is far more precious than anything that comes in a box.  My family was so immensely blessed and refreshed that year by a couple who embraced us with their healing Christmas love, who opened their home to us when it was most needed.

When we returned home in the New Year, my parents discovered this precious couple had also filled our freezer with 6 weeks-worth of pre-cooked meals.  My mother could take time to relax back into the house from which she had been away for so long, and focus on rebuilding relationships with her husband and both her children.

Responding with heart to simple needs – this to me is the true meaning of Christmas.

The Greatest Gifts of Love

The family of a child with cancer requires much care and support at any time of year, but especially so during the Holiday season.  There is so much care giving to organize, hospital appointments still to keep and treatments to administer, children on holiday from school must be occupied, and there is an extra need for the Christmas spirit in the home.

Yet many families are already stretched close to the breaking point, and the season’s air of joy does not suddenly make their troubles disappear.

If you are one of those family members, you will know that you must keep moving forward, but remember to take care of yourself too.  Set limits on your work time, and ask friends and/or family to help you out throughout the holidays.  Most often, people want to help, but don’t know what to do or how to offer their time to you.  Check out our advice page on seeking and accepting help for some practical ideas.

If you are the friend or relative of a family coping with their child’s cancer, give them a special gift this Christmas by offering to help out in some way.  They need to know you are there for them, and the offer of help is likely to be gratefully received.  Visit our advice section to learn more about how you can help in many different ways.

So Many Ways to Show You Care

Think about giving a Christmas gift that will be of practical help, provide support for the caregivers, or bring a little joy to the family.  You can do many things for the family without spending a penny.

Offer to provide meals, go shopping, clean the house, clear the leaves or snow from their driveway.   Give some time out for the parents with some babysitting, a spa visit or theatre tickets.   Offer lifts to the hospital or clinic – especially if the family does not have a car.

You can still offer help even if you don’t live close by.  You could offer to pay for a cleaner to do housework, order a meal to be delivered to the family, or send gift vouchers.  Keep in touch with telephone calls and cards, but be sure to ask the family how often they would like a call – they may feel over-burdened by too much communication.  Remember to keep an element of normalcy in your conversations – childhood cancer is a heavy load to bear, but the family still needs to feel they are part of the world beyond the illness.

The real spirit of Christmas is not to be found in a turkey dinner or brightly wrapped presents under a tree, but in our dedication to helping those around us, in the sharing of hope, peace and friendship.  May we all give thanks this Holiday season for the rich blessings in our lives, and be inspired and motivated into action by the great warmth in our own hearts that comes from bringing joy to others.

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