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Why I'm Not Wishing You a 'Healthy' Holiday

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How often do we hear the word “healthy” bandied about in repetitive, throwaway comments? “Wishing you a healthy new year,” “As long as the baby is healthy, that is all that matters,” raising a glass “to good health?”

Well, as a mother of a chronically sick child and the wife of a cancer survivor, I find myself cringing when I hear these words. To me, they imply that if someone isn’t healthy, their life cannot be good. That if you lose your health, things cannot be OK. I realize that the people uttering these phrases do not intend to cause insult; in fact, they are often well-intentioned, but sometimes very little thought goes into them — it is just what you are meant to say.

The notion that good health is the epitome of life and the ultimate goal exacerbates the fear, isolation and negative emotions felt by those who become ill. It generates a harmful sense of pity. Illness is something that happens to everyone. It isn’t always serious and it may often be short-lived; for some it is an inconvenience but for others it is simply a way of life. It may be something that never goes away but is simply managed and dealt with. Poor health can hit you when you least expect it. And it is important for everyone to know that if you find yourself in a situation where your health or that of a close loved one is threatened, all is not lost and there are still great moments to look forward to.

My son has chronic lung disease, epilepsy, hypotonia, chronic constipation, a predisposition to infection and a swallowing disorder. He cannot walk or talk and by regular standards he will never be healthy. But he is happier than most children I know. He inspires others. He is loved with so much intensity it hurts and he has changed my husband and me for the better. And yet, he is in poor health. Wishing him good health for the upcoming year isn’t going to change his reality.

When my husband became acutely unwell with a life-threatening cancer a few years ago, the upheaval to our already unorthodox lives was immense. Spending Christmas and New Year’s in the hospital was not unusual for us (we had been there before with our son) but the kindness and care we experienced reiterated to us that even when health evades you and life throws you another curve ball, there is still much to be grateful for — love, family, opportunity, challenge and friendship just for starters.

To all those spending the festive period in the hospital and those dealing with a recent diagnosis or recovering from illness or injury at home, I am not going to wish you a healthy holiday. Instead, I wish everyone the strength to live well regardless of what life brings your way. In sickness and in health, it can and will bring unexpected rewards.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness during the holiday season, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: December 22, 2015
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