Editor’s note: The following post was written by Barbara Gannon, who shared her Cancer Survivor story with us in October 2017. You can find out more about Barb’s healing from a diagnosis of terminal Stage 4 mesothelioma and Stage 2 breast cancer here and here.
G’Day! After a brief break since my last TTAC article, it’s great to be writing to you once again.
In the land down under, our seasons are the opposite of most you. Christmas falls right in the middle of our summer, and boy does it get HOT! In fact, we often serve cold foods for Christmas dinner since eating hot food in December here can be a challenge.
This year, I want to talk about my first Christmas with a cancer diagnosis. In 2015, Christmas was the last thing I felt like celebrating. Facing the holiday with no hope and a diagnosis that says you don’t have long to live is horrible. If you’re struggling with a cancer diagnosis this year, I’m here to tell you that there is always hope!
That Christmas was unlike any other for me. I just didn’t know my future – whether I would even be here for the next Christmas – and the sadness engulfed me in so many ways. It was especially hard because I didn’t want to spoil it for my family, so I had to find a reason to celebrate this day, enjoy it, and make it the best yet.
Though I tried to get out of the big family get-together, my eldest nephew wouldn’t allow it. His words were encouraging, and he simply wasn’t going to let the “eccentric aunty” skip time with the family. So, I gave myself a pep talk and told myself to make this year special. I decided to make any remaining years equally as special, because each day is special. Each day is a gift, and I encourage you to embrace that every single day!
So, we showed up to the big family gathering. SO MUCH yummy food. Rum balls, white chocolate rum balls, chocolate yule logs, antipasto platters… Every one of my favorites was on that table, and I thought “I’m drowning!” Fortunately, I had made some healthy snacks myself that I could eat and enjoy. That’s what you have to do.
Of course, when it came to the main meal – a little bit of turkey, some roast veggies, all the trimmings – I indulged! Unbeknownst to me, my whole family decided that Christmas was going to be “hacked.” You see, everything was made fresh, making sure that there were no “forbidden foods.” Care was taken in the meal planning, substitutions were made in recipes, and every part of the meal had some hacking done to it so that everything we ate was tasty, filling, and enjoyable without any compromise to our health.
I’m telling you this today because you, too can enjoy your Christmas treats with family & friends. Embrace the day with passion, because this is a celebration of life! YOU are celebrating your life and sharing it with others.
Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ! So let me just say this:
Stop worrying about yourself this year and focus on the reason for the season.
I can guarantee that when you’re not the focus, you will be able to enjoy and embrace the day.
So, this year, try something different. Try foods you wouldn’t normally have. Cut out the heavy, unhealthy, stodgy versions and make a change. How do you lighten up the meal, you ask? Thinking outside the box is a good start. It’s all about a mental SHIFT; it’s about not being controlled by cancer, but taking control over cancer.
As much as I love mulled wine and fruit pies, they don’t love me. So I change them. You can have a healthy version! Make your Christmas cake a healthy option this year by learning how to make a sugar free pie crust and using stevia, mangosteen, or healthy fruits for your filling.
Christmas this year will be busy, since my family is celebrating both Christmas eve and Christmas day. Thankfully, I won’t be stressed by the food. I don’t eat much, and since I’m cooking, you can bet everything will be really healthy and fully organic. Here are some of the holiday foods I have planned this year:
Nibbles: Rum balls made with almond meal and homemade condensed milk (no sugar in this baby!), coconut, cacao powder, and a little rum or rum essence. Biscuits won’t be necessary since you’re using almond meal (hooray hacking!)
- We’ll have ham with crackling cooked on the bbq (so Australian)
- Irish spiced beef (I’m salivating already)
- Diced baby potatoes, pumpkin, sprouts, and cauliflower mixed together with some great spices.
- Roasted beets with some crumbled dukkah & fetta on top. These can be cold or hot salads and definitely aren’t boring in taste!
Dessert: This year it’s a nut base – 90% chocolate and coffee tart with sugar free ice cream, mixed with some homemade sugar-free Christmas cake. Only a small amount. It’s a treat, ok! If you really like something, but you just can’t have some of those ingredients, hack it!
- My healthy version of rum balls
- Mini chicken skewers in homemade garlic aioli
- Baked brie with walnuts, rosemary, and raw honey
- Prawns and scallops (sorry for all of you living with a cold Christmas Day) on the barbie mate!
- Roasted pork belly
- Crispy parmesan potatoes with red pepper salsa
- Beetroot Salad with red onions, brazil nuts, and black quinoa
- Asparagus and zucchini salad with spiced nuts on top
Dessert: While everyone enjoys the mini pavlovas brimming with fresh berries and the condensed milk cream I’m making (no sugar), I’ll enjoy mine without the meringue.
These are actually all very simple to make, easy to enjoy, sugar-free, with no rubbish in them.
You see, you don’t have to live the disease just because you have it. You have to embrace life and let it lift you up, remembering the reason for the season and forgetting for a day about yourself.
Now, if you are just too unwell, don’t distress. Do your best to join in, making sure you get as much rest as you need. Let the family gather around you. Even if you don’t want to eat, everyone is looking forward to simply spending time with you. So let everyone care for you by making Christmas Day just right for you.
I wish you a beautiful, gentle, and loving Christmas; I wish you wellness in your journey; and I wish you the peace of God in your celebrations.