The Real Twelve Days of Christmas

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010 at 12:05 AM by   

Did I forget to tell you?

I’ve been hiding a secret for the last forty days. It was the Saturday before Thanksgiving when my mom, just 61 years old, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Yeah, that’s a nasty one. She wasn’t there three days and they already had started chemotherapy cocktail treatments. Mom spent Thanksgiving in her hospital room. A month later, she spent Christmas there too. She did a bone marrow biopsy twice in just under two weeks. Yesterday morning she had a transfusion, and then after thirty-eight nights spent in the care of wonderful nurses and doctors just a mile from her home in Gilbert, Arizona, Linda Spencer — my mom — was able to go home.

Today she has two doctors appointments. Next week she will return to the hospital for a second round of chemo. We’ll do it all over again, and a total of four rounds will be fought with the deadly cancer. The goal, of course, is to destroy all the bad cells and get the good ones growing again, sending the disease into remission.

The main reason I’ve hidden this secret for so long is because I don’t need a daily reminder from my nearly 600 friends on Facebook, in phone calls, or via email that I’m 700 miles away and can’t really visit her. She actually has told my bother and I not to visit. Still, I call her every other day, and quickly learned that you have to be among the first three calls of the day or she becomes frustrated repeating information. The days when I miss that window, I call my father instead.

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Traditionally, the twelve days of Christmas would begin on December 25th and run through January 5th. Some people like to start on December 14th and run through Christmas Day. The remainder of this story is about the latter, and the real reason for this post.

One day, a big basket of goodies arrived in my mom’s room. It had popcorn, movies, candies like you might find in a theatre…it was the real deal. The card that came with it simply said: “To Linda and Ron, From Your Friends”

As the days continued, a new basket would appear, each with a different set of treats. Each one must have been valued at $35 or more. Regardless of the contents, the card was always the same. “To Linda and Ron, From Your Friends”

There were so many gifts at one point – some that my mother wasn’t even allowed to have in the room – that my father took them home. Everyone at the hospital felt that they must know some really great friends, because her room was certainly the most decorated with all the gifts and cards that arrived. The only problem was that my parents didn’t know who their “friends” were.

Then on the morning of Christmas Eve, the department manager at Lowe’s in East Gilbert asked my dad if he would be visiting my mother in the hospital. He said that he’d love to tag along and say hello, and that if 2pm would be okay. That’s when some of the puzzle pieces began to fit together.

Sure enough, at 2pm on Christmas Eve, there were about fourteen employees from my dad’s store that appeared in the hospital. Bear in mind, my mother had only met one of these individuals. Her name was Chris (she works in Installed Sales), and they only knew each other from playing bingo in the casinos, and even then it was a casual acquaintance.

Apparently it was some years ago that Chris and her family were having a rough time. They started receiving gifts for twelve days before Christmas. They never knew where the gifts were coming from until about five years later. A member of her church accidentally let it slip during a conversation.

It was Chris that went to the her manager, the store manager, my dad’s direct manager and others to see if they wanted to be involved. Everyone that she mentioned it to knew my dad, even though he only works part time at the store, but everyone wanted in. They only needed twelve people, but several individuals doubled up for certain days because there was that much interest in helping out. Bear in mind, this wasn’t Lowe’s, but employees that work there. And it all started with Chris.

Thank you, Chris. And thank you to all the employees that helped my parents get through this first step a little easier.

We lost my mom’s sister to diabetes (among some other complications) just 15 months ago. We are not even close to out of the woods, and the doctors said that if the chemo doesn’t work and we can’t find a marrow donor, we would have about 3 months to 5 years. It sure put a few things into perspective for me, and makes what seemed like big issues seem just a tiny bit smaller.

The bottom line

Love your family. You don’t know how long they will be around to hear you say it. There’s also still a lot of good people in this world. Hopefully you are one of them.

  • Stacie Tamaki

    Jason I am so sorry to hear this :( After going through the bone marrow donor search and transplant process when a match was found after my cousin’s blood cancer diagnosis last year, and living three states away from her, I know all too well the frustration that comes from not being able to be there in person and how a patient’s energy level can make daily communication challenging. Treatments are brutal but they can and do work. It’s tough on the patient and also very tough on the people who love them.

    If you need to talk, need help with launching a bone marrow drive on your mom’s behalf or if there is anything else I can do to help you as a friend please don’t hesitate to let me know. Sending you a big virtual *Hug* until I see you again.

  • http://www.spencerweddings.net Jason Spencer

    Thank you, Stacie. I hope you don’t mind that I linked to your marrow donor site in the text. As I see it, it benefits everyone.