Anticipation. What a wonderful thing. Often the buildup and the wait are better than the event itself. Remember the expression "slow as Christmas?" I haven't heard that expression in a long, long time. Kids have so much these days that it is hard for most of them to tell when Christmas comes. But I have been eagerly looking forward to this Christmas. The last time I remember being this excited about the great day arriving was the year Santa promised me an electric train.
What a difference a year can make. Last year I told everyone who asked, and a few who didn't, that all I wanted for Christmas was one more Christmas. I wasn't funning. There were many days last winter when I would go to bed so fatigued and wracked with pain that I was certain I wouldn't wake up the next morning. There were many nights when I almost hoped I didn't.
I was locked in a life-or-death battle with prostate cancer. It was supposed to have been a little skirmish, a minor inconvenience and I assumed that my enemy would be dispatched quite easily by the miracles of modern medicine.
It turned out that my particular case of prostate cancer was quite a worthy adversary. My mother always told me that I was exceptional, even when no one else thought so, and in keeping with my mother's evaluation, my particular case of cancer was quite exceptional, too. I had the surgery all my doctors recommended, but the cancer had escaped the prostate and was creating havoc elsewhere in my body.
This time a year ago I was undergoing daily radiation treatments that would create havoc with several of my internal organs, but didn't slow the growth of cancer cells one whit. The cancer, unbeknownst to me at the time, had metastasized into my bones. In the dead of winter, I heard doctor after doctor explain, "I am sorry but you have stage 4 metastatic prostate disease. There is a treatment but the outcome is not particularly positive for most post-prostatectomy patients whose PSA rises exponentially post-procedure."
Like I said, all I wanted this Christmas was to make it to this Christmas. And made it I have.
Last April, I began treatments at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. I could have gotten the same medicines they use anywhere, but I don't think I could have gotten the same positive attitude just anywhere else. My doctor in Houston offered me the same treatments I was offered elsewhere. Just like the other doctors I saw, he told me right up front that the treatment wasn't likely to work at all or that if it did work, it wouldn't work for long.
But unlike other folks I talked to, he told me "when this doesn't work or stops working, then we will try this and then this and then this and by the time those stop working, we'll have something else to try. He offered me hope, just like the Christ child offers the world hope every yuletide.
I have been back to M.D. Anderson four times since that first visit. Every time I have been my doctor has been astounded by the fact that the treatments, which he admittedly considered a precursor to the next step, continue to work and that the cancer that was attacking my skeleton has stopped spreading. He allowed himself to admit last week that the effectiveness of the treatment -- and my lifespan -- might now be measured in years instead of months.
I know my doctor understands science and medicine and human psychology. I am not sure whether he understands the power of prayer or the number of prayers that are being sent heavenward each day on my behalf. But I understand, and I appreciate each and every one.
So here we are, anticipating another Christmas and I want you all to know that I have embraced and appreciated each and every moment of this Advent season. The lights have seemed just a little bit brighter to me, the songs sung just a little bit sweeter and the Christmas goodies just a little bit tastier.
Like George Bailey in "It's a Wonderful Life" I have realized this Christmas just how blessed I have been and how many friends I have made over the years -- many of whom I have never met and will never have the opportunity to meet. More people have shown me more kindness this year than I could have ever imagined.
Embrace this Christmas, y'all. Hold your loved ones just a little bit tighter. Laugh a little more. Linger a little longer with friends and family. Cherish the moments and remember that each day is a gift greater than anything you will find wrapped under your tree.
Lastly, I would like to offer a big thank you to everyone who invites me into your home each week through these columns and into your hearts. Merry Christmas to all and in the timeless words of Dickens's Tiny Tim, God bless us, every one.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.