Of Christmas and Love

Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work

DECEMBER 26, 2017

Some of you are hopefully still away from work today, but I am here and trying to recover from the delightful excesses of the past few days. The combination of rich food and more wine than usual and less sleep and constant company has been a blessing--but also exhausting. The gift for me this morning in my office was to find that Santa or his elf known anonymously as "the contractor" hung my quilt. It is starting to feel like my space.

We hosted our traditional huge and chaotic Christmas Eve party. Due to the previous day's ice storm, we reluctantly skipped the caroling around the town tree. The sidewalks were ice rink-like, and the festive joy did not seem worth a broken bone or two. Otherwise, the house was filled the the annual smells and sounds and laughter of very excited small children. How I treasure and appreciate these moments and blessings.

And this essay from The New York Times is also to be savored. I especially like the fact that the author, now well, but then suffering in bed in an oncology unit at Memorial in New York, declined a visit from the cheerful volunteer carolers. I always appreciate someone who is willing to be grumpy when it is totally appropriate.

Here is the start and a link to read more:


Shooing Carolers Away for a Love That Stays


My parents, roommate and I could hear carolers down the hallway. “Deck the Halls” shook me out of the haze that had kept me floating above myself in bed, disengaged from a body that was 22 pounds lighter than when I had started chemotherapy weeks before.

Eventually the carolers would reach my room, but I was more drawn to the view from my window. I liked staring out at the healthy world’s layers so as not to forget my place in them — a street, a garden inside a black gate, the East River, Roosevelt Island, Queens, Long Island, the ocean.

Stuck to the glass were Christmas and Hanukkah decorations made of gummy material: fat Santas twirling around dreidels with snowflakes falling upon colorful boxed gifts. The pediatric oncology floor felt as festive as a suburban mall. My once-a-day walk of the unit was a stroll through a malignant winter wonderland.

The carolers were getting closer. A volunteer would soon knock and ask if it was O.K. for them to come in. All day long there were unwelcome entrances, a revolving door of doctors, nurses, aides, physical therapists, social workers, psychiatrists and one diligent nutritionist. Sometimes, at day’s end, I would hear the quiet knock of a friend, or better yet, Rachel.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/22/style/modern-love-christmas-carols-leukemia.html

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