In December 2011, I was preparing for sarcoma surgery and knew I'd soon be using a wheelchair or walker.
With all that ahead of me, I was dreading spending the holidays in the hospital. After 25 rounds of radiation as part of my sarcoma treatment, hadn't I already been through enough? I was only 21 years old, and I wanted my freedom and to be able to enjoy my favorite time of year with my family and friends as I always had.
To my surprise, this is exactly what I got, thanks to MD Anderson.
Finding the holiday spirit at MD Anderson after sarcoma surgery
As I had expected, my life was very different -- and very restricted -- after my sarcoma surgery. However, I was able to enjoy the holidays just as much as I had in the past. MD Anderson is such a special place to be during the holidays.
Once I started to feel a little better after my sarcoma surgery, I began to notice all the holiday decorations at MD Anderson. I remember when my parents took me on a holiday sightseeing tour around the hospital. I couldn't handle being out of my room for very long, but for the short time I could be, we made sure that every minute counted. I especially loved the wreaths displayed on the skybridge. There was so much spirit and creativity put into those works of art!
There are so many things to do during the holidays at MD Anderson. During my stay, I was visited by many volunteers, including Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to go see some of the musical groups that came to entertain us patients, but my mom recorded them and showed me later. One group played Christmas songs on bells. It was wonderful! I loved hearing various caroling groups and choirs walking through the halls singing and making such beautiful music for the patients. It was so uplifting!
Those who donate their time and talents really make a big difference at the hospital. I hope they know how much their efforts mean to the patients.
Bringing my own holiday traditions to MD Anderson
While I couldn't spend too much time outside of my room, I did attend a jewelry and accessories sale in the Main Building. It was great being able to go shopping right there in the hospital, and I even bought myself a couple scarves that I still wear.
I also became a regular at the Beauty & Barber Shop. Because I was unable to wash my hair after sarcoma surgery, I visited them for a wash and trim. The volunteers even curled my hair. I felt just like I was going to a holiday party.
I also loved visiting the observation deck on the 24th floor at night. I could see so many lights from all around! I've always loved visiting the 24th floor, and it was even more special at night during the holidays. It was all decorated for Christmas and such a peaceful place to be.
Discovering my independence and celebrating my new normal
One of my favorite holiday memories at MD Anderson was the night before I was discharged. I decided to have a little adventure and explore the hospital alone. I didn't go very far, but for a brief moment I found some freedom and independence as I wheeled myself through the halls, admiring the holiday decorations. This helped me realize that Christmas could still be special, even at the hospital and with these big lifestyle changes.
Christmas is my favorite time of year, and I honestly don't think there's a better time to be at MD Anderson. The one place I thought would be the worst to spend December was actually one of the best. The care and joyful Christmas spirit at the hospital were so amazing!
Every year on my anniversary check-up, I revisit some of the places I remember going to in my wheelchair. It feels good to look at where I was then compared to where I am now. That's one holiday gift I love receiving every year.