This year for my family’s Secret Santa, I was so excited to get the youngest cousin! I love shopping for the kids, especially the little ones.
She asked for new leggings, clip-on earrings, and a Build-A-Bear. While I couldn’t make the bear work this year, I did buy her an outfit with matching accessories. I wrapped them nicely with fun wrapping paper and attached a card revealing I’m her Secret Santa.
But this year’s a little different: We’re going to mail our gifts to one another. What a disappointment. I love watching the kids’ expressions as they open their presents!
Christmas will look different this year for many of us. Many parties are being canceled and are going digital. Other people are still making an effort to visit by stopping in the front yard, masked and from a distance. And of course, there are the stubborn few who still want to make gatherings happen this year.
Although gatherings are one of my favorite parts of the holidays, I’ve already decided to RSVP “No” this year, even with family and friends. There are many responsible reasons not to get together during a pandemic, even if it causes hurt feelings. But I also have reasons based on my health struggles due to juvenile arthritis.
The main reason behind my decision
Of course, there’s the obvious: We all need to do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19. My doctors have asked me to be extra cautious due to my autoimmune disease and the treatments I use to control it. But staying home helps protect others as well, and I want to do my part, especially for those in high-risk groups, such as the elderly, pregnant women, and people going through cancer treatment.
The personal health reason behind my decision
When you have a chronic illness, every little illness takes twice as long to recover from and knocks you down even harder. Whenever a bug went around in school, my classmates would be a bit sniffly or be absent for a day. Then there was me, who needed a few days to a week to recover.
Not to mention my juvenile arthritis always flares when I’m sick. As if flu muscle aches weren’t bad enough, add on some swollen, burning joints. I’m not willingly signing up for the potential of being sick and making my disease more active.
For years, I’ve been doing my best to safeguard my health. For me, it’s quite normal to avoid people who are sick and to take extra precautions during flu season, such as getting a flu shot, washing my hands more often, and avoiding overly crowded spaces whenever possible. These things aren’t considerable inconveniences in my life; they’re just precautions I’ve naturally done after getting one too many colds that felt like they took weeks to get over.
Of course, there are times I can’t avoid these things. Sometimes I need to get on the crowded subway, or a child I was watching had a cold. But I try my best to protect myself when I can.
It will still be Christmas without gatherings
I’m not a Grinch, though he is one of my favorite Christmas characters. I still plan on exchanging presents with loved ones via mail and drop-off, sending Christmas cards, driving around the neighborhood to look at the pretty lights, decorating the tree, and enjoying the company of my household. And this year, I will especially be going out of my way to drop off food and gifts to people who we know are lonely, vulnerable, and in need of Christmas cheer.
Of course, I miss my family. I miss the thrill of watching the little cousins tear open longed-for gifts and sitting around catching up with my aunts and uncles. My heart aches, knowing how long it’s been since I’ve seen them and how long it will probably be until we get to unite again. But this year, the greatest gift we can give is the gift of keeping each other healthy.
Note: Juvenile Arthritis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Juvenile Arthritis News, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to juvenile arthritis.
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