I am in disbelief when I hear someone say, “I feel so blessed during the holidays. I just love Christmas!”

What makes the Christmas season different from the rest of the year? If you knew you were dying, would you live life differently?

In 1989, I was due for an annual pap smear. I almost didn’t schedule the exam. With my husband deployed to Operation Desert Storm, I was not sexually active. But I am one of those people who always has to do the right thing.

Ultimately, my decision to “do the right thing” saved my life. At age 24, I was diagnosed the first time with cervical cancer. More than 650,000 women lose their lives to cervical cancer every year and I realized I could be joining that unwanted sisterhood.

I walked to my car after receiving the news from my doctor and sat in the front seat and cried.

I thought of my 7-year-old daughter whom I had just adopted and I worried for her more than myself. My husband was deployed. What if he didn’t make it back from the war? Who would take care of her?

I kept the news of my condition to myself and told no one but God. I had surgery and made an appointment to return in three months for a follow-up exam.

In that three months time, I lived life like there was no tomorrow. I was my daughter’s Brownie troop assistant leader. I was chairing a major fundraiser for March of Dimes, and I was looking to the Lord to walk with me through this journey.

I spent fewer hours at the office at the end of the day and tried to spend more time with my daughter. I knew that my time was precious.

I went for my followup exam and more cancerous cells were found on my cervix. Funny, this time I wasn’t scared — maybe because I had survived through the first bout of cancer. Maybe because I had educated myself on the disease.

But I believe I found peace knowing I had done all I could in the time available to me and would have no regrets if my life ended.

Being diagnosed with cancer and believing there is an end ahead changed my outlook on life. I began to live life differently.

During Christmas 2012. I had a tumor the size of a softball on the right side of my neck.

It was growing rapidly, had engulfed my right thyroid and despite multiple tests, biopsies, and other procedures, doctors could not determine if it was cancerous.

It had to be removed within 72 hours or my air passageway would be blocked and I would suffocate.

My husband came in from Afghanistan and was by my bedside as I headed into surgery.

I could see fear in his eyes and I told him not to worry and that I was prepared for whatever outcome God had planned.

The tumor was removed and so was my right thyroid. The doctors were unable to ever determine if it was cancerous.

But once again, I had survived.

Living with the end in mind means we see our time on earth in a different light.

We realize the treasures we have accumulated on earth will mean nothing once we have passed away.

Our bank accounts will be inaccessible. Our earthly homes will be out of reach. Our clothing, our cars, all the things we cherish will be useless and meaningless.

The only things that matter are the things we invest in others. If we are not focusing on ourselves, we won’t be so worried and upset by the things that happen in life.

And our perspective — which will be strikingly different from that of people around us — will be a powerful testimony for faith, hope and love — not just during the Christmas season, but every day of the year.

Contact Wendy Sledd at wsledd@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7476

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