Cancer at Christmas

Brandon Slesser
Change Your Mind Change Your Life
5 min readDec 12, 2023


Photo by Kate Laine on Unsplash

The gift that keeps on giving, even when you wish there was a return label on it. Recently I was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I know it sounds super scary right, and it is. The doctors tell me that it is curable and that I can beat it, and I have faith that I can, but there is always that little bitty voice in the back of your head that is saying, “just give up and give in, there is no reason to fight.”

Fighting addictions while fighting cancer

I think the hardest part in all of this is that I am a smoker, have been for years. The struggle with having Cancer at Christmas is the stress and what better way to relieve stress than to turn to the one thing that helps you feel better, for me it was smoking. It got to the point where I was hiding what I was doing from my partner because I felt ashamed. I felt ashamed that I was fighting an addiction while also fighting cancer and that I didn’t have faith in myself to tell him what I was dealing with on top of cancer.

I felt like a failure

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Stages of Grief

One thing they don’t tell you when you are fighting Cancer at Christmas is all the emotions that you go through. It is stages of grief and heartbreak. You feel like your world is crashing down around you, like you can’t breathe and you just want to curl up in a ball and disappear. They don’t tell you that you feel like a part of you died the day they say “ You have cancer.” I tried to hold it in, of course I couldn’t, but hey that’s what happens when you find out you have Cancer at Christmas. They don’t tell you that you feel like you are dying on the inside, they don’t tell you the pain that you will feel every day, they don’t tell you how damn tired you will be.

I felt Useless

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The worst part about having Cancer and Christmas is that the joy is sucked right out of you. Sure you hear the jingle of Christmas bells and yeah you play your favorite Christmas music, but really there is a part of you that wonders how the hell you are going to get through it. The self deprivation that you feel everyday. You don’t think about the presents under the tree, that’s if you even have the strength to put up a tree, or the idea of Santa coming to town…all you think about is how and I going to get through another day feeling like this. I can see how people get depressed and have thoughts of just ending it all, I mean why not, you have Cancer at Christmas. It would be easy, but would it be the right choice? Of course it wouldn’t!! The entire idea of ending it all just because you have cancer doesn’t mean that it’s an end all be all…but that stage comes later. Right now, it’s a stage of self pity and sadness.

Choosing to Fight

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It’s time to fight and brave the fire.

So after I went through my stage of depression and self pity and the ideas of harming myself, then I got to the stage of “hell no, you won’t get the best of me.” It’s deciding to stand up and embrace the flames. Not to shy away from them and to give in to the pain. I may have Cancer at Christmas, but that doesn’t mean that I have to roll over and take it. To get to that stage of fighting, there has to be something that ignites the flames. There has to be something that causes you to decide that you are not going to give in, that you are going to fight as hard as you can to make sure you live. Fighting through the addictions of smoking and fighting through the depression having Cancer at Christmas can cause anyone to doubts.

Relying on Faith

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One thing that I have learned was that I had to rely on my faith. I have always had faith and believed that God was in control and I saw that in every moment of my treatments and the process of treating my cancer. I realized that no matter what, God was in control and that I would be fine. Still the ringing of doubt went through my mind and I realized that I was battling myself, which is a fight that no one will win if they give in. So I relied on my faith and continued to keep my head high.

Revived Hope

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I had basically given into my depression when my partner agreed to take me see Christmas lights. Now I know that it seems like a small task, but getting out of the house and out of my thoughts allowed hope to be revived in me. I realized that I still had fight left inside me, I still had strength inside me. Seeing all those little lights and being with the man who has been my rock allowed me to regain the strength that I thought I lost. Finally I was able to see beyond my Cancer at Christmas and see the joy of living.



Brandon Slesser
Change Your Mind Change Your Life

Free spirited, open minded, hopeless romantic, a little stubborn, and an avid thinker.