Lights of Hope


“Lights of Hope” by Kat Heckenbach

I was diagnosed with cancer in October of 2004, which meant my treatment fell smack across the month of December. Chemo for Christmas was not something I looked forward to. I prayed every day that Christmas would not be ruined by my illness and treatment. With two small children, and a need for hope, I wanted desperately to keep the magic alive.

The doctors were very aggressive because I was only 34 years old and in an early stage. The chemo didn’t knock my hair out, but it made me sick as a dog. The radiation zapped all my energy. At five-foot-nine I actually felt puny. Weight-loss and exhaustion left me weak and barely able to walk across the house. In the past, I’d carried the Christmas tree into the house; but that year I could barely manage the ornaments and had to delegate most of the decorating to my mom and kids.

The outdoor Christmas lights went up around my neighborhood, and my husband, Jeff, asked if I’d like to go out and see them.

“Not if I can’t see all of them,” I said. I wanted to go on our traditional family Christmas walks at night, but how could I when I couldn’t even make it to the end of the driveway to get the mail? I wanted to drive around the surrounding neighborhoods, but how could I when riding in the car caused motion sickness? The thought of sitting in front of the house, staring at the same blinking string of lights across the street, roused the snarly head of depression.

“I know how you can see all of them,” Jeff said, and darted to the phone to call his parents. “Mom, Dad…do you still have Grandpa’s wheelchair?”

Night after night, Jeff loaded me into the wheelchair, covered me in thick blankets, and pushed me—thump, thump, over the threshold—out the front door.

My two-year-old daughter, bundled in her little pink jacket, snuggled under the blankets with me, her warmth calming my shivering bones. My son, four years old and much bigger than his sister, walked next to us and held my hand or helped his daddy push.

And just like that, wrapped in the love of my husband and two kids, I rode around my neighborhood.

The Christmas lights were more amazing than they had ever been before—than any lights had ever been before! Colorful, white, twinkling and bright, they sparkled of promise and joy…hope and healing. My spirit lifted higher than I thought possible because of those lights, and because of the love that allowed me to see them all.

Chemo took away my cancer, but it couldn’t take away my Christmas.

(This story originally appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas Magic.)

About Kat Heckenbach

Kat grew up in the small town of Riverview, Florida, where she spent most of her time either drawing or sitting in her "reading tree" with her nose buried in a fantasy novel...except for the hours pretending her back yard was an enchanted forest that could only be reached through the secret passage in her closet... She never could give up on the idea that maybe she really was magic, mistakenly placed in a world not her own...but as the years passed, and no elves or fairies carted her away...she realized she was just going to have to create the life of her fantasies. She shares that life with her husband and two homeschooling kids. Kat is a graduate of the University of Tampa, Magna Cum Laude, B.S. in Biology. She spent several years teaching, but never in a traditional classroom--everything from Art to Algebra II. Her writing spans the gamut from inspirational personal essays to dark and disturbing fantasy and horror, with over forty short fiction and nonfiction credits to her name.

9 comments on “Lights of Hope

  1. Kat – I didn’t know you had cancer. Congrats on making it through. BTW- it looks like we’re the same age. LOL Beautiful post.

  2. Kat – I’ve read and reviewed you book but find your life even more amazing. My wife was 33 and I was 31 when doctors told me she would not live longer than a year. Our boys were in elementary school and we were clueless about so much in life. Two brain surgeries and a trunk load of trials later, our boys are grown men with children and as I write I just welcomed my wife of almost 38 years home from work. Men plan, and fret but God is the One who orders our lives! Thanks for sharing your story and thanks for being who you are.

    • Well, sounds like you’re the one with the amazing life!

      Honestly, I sometimes feel like my cancer battle was a cake-walk compared to most. I was definitely not told I’d have only a year to live–I was told I had a 90% chance of cure. It still scared me, though, that 10%…and the chemo, well, sucked.

      I am SO happy to know your wife beat the odds!

  3. I didn’t know you had gone through cancer either. Love is definitely what gets us through!

    • OK, my reply didn’t show up the first time, so if this ends up doubling, I apologize.

      What I’d said was, Yes, Love definitely does :).

  4. Lovely story, Kat. Thanks for sharing.

  5. […] Lights of Hope (newauthors.wordpress.com) […]

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