What I Learned From One Family’s Battle with Leukemia

I met Kevin and his family when I was in college. They were very involved in the church I attended. Such cool people; kind, warm and welcoming. The parents modeled a marriage worth emulating. Kevin reminded me of me when I was his age: brown curly hair, smart and thoughtful, a little bit shy.

I’d lost touch, but was recently saddened to hear that Kevin, just twenty-three years old, was battling leukemia. He had been in Texas getting treatment and fighting hard, but with the cancer on the verge of winning the war, he returned this past September to spend his final months at home. Kevin’s favorite holiday is Christmas, but it wasn’t assured that he’d live to see the next one. So his family did a cool thing.

They broke a rule and moved Christmas up a few months.

Upon his return — in September, remember — he was greeted to a street strewn with signs welcoming him home. Beautiful red bows adorned the maple trees, fence and porch. The neighbor’s house had Christmas lights, too. Friends and family decked out Kevin’s home with Christmas cheer, cookies, and a fully-decorated tree.


What if your doctor told you that you had a 50/50 shot of making it to the end of the year? What would change in your life? Anything? Everything?

Here’s a sobering thought: there’s a pretty good chance that at least a few people reading this won’t be here this Christmas. That number could include you. Or me. The only 100% certainty is that for each and every one of us, our Christmases are numbered.

Don’t wait for a doctor’s diagnosis to wake you out of your slumber. It’s a luxury that rarely comes.

What advice would you give to someone to make sure they’re living every day to the fullest? (Especially if that someone was you?) Here’s some of mine:

  • Quit worrying about what other people think.
  • Examine your life for rules you’re living by that don’t actually exist. (Hint: there are way more of these than you can possibly imagine.) Start ruthlessly ignoring them.
  • Watch less TV. Create more adventures.
  • Pull out the good china and have a fancy dinner (even if you’re only having macaroni and cheese.) To those waiting for some sort of special occasion, I’d say that having dinner together with the people you love is always a special occasion.
  • Start dreaming a little bit bigger than seems reasonable. That’s how you know you’re doing it right.
  • Do more of what excites you to the core. Do less of what doesn’t.
  • Remember that EVERY day is a holiday. It’s just that most days, what to celebrate is up to you.

Kevin made it to the “real” Christmas, but he passed away earlier this week. He and his family were a powerful and humbling example to me of what faith and love really look like during the difficult times. And as for the specific dates on which we’re supposed to celebrate things like Halloween or Thanksgiving or Christmas?

They reminded me that those are optional, too.

Adultitis-Fighting Tip: Every day is a holiday and life is a celebration. Is there something you’re yearning to do but are waiting for the "proper" time to do it? Maybe this is the week to go for it. (Or at least start planning for it.) No time like the present, after all.

What’s YOUR best advice for living every day to the fullest?

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[ Every Day is a Holiday. Acrylic and Sharpie marker on newsprint. ]

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  1. Cat B says:

    We like to celebrate our baptism day as another birthday. For that is the day we’re born into God’s family. Although writing it I was just thinking about how I’ve heard it said that when you die is when you’re born into eternal life. So, you might think of Baptism as being conceived and we’re being shaped and molded into the eternal life we’ll be born into. Once our spirit has been shaped into what it was made to be through all the trials and troubles of life we can think of those times as birthing pains soon forgotten by the joy of arrival.


  1. […] Make up your own holiday and do something to celebrate it. […]

  2. […] story is reminiscent of the folks who moved up Christmas for a kid I knew who was dying of leukemia. Who says Christmas can’t be celebrated in […]

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