So there we are, my family and I, My Mom, Dad, sister and me, smiling into the camera, looking happy and carefree.  You'd almost never know that just before this picture was taken, we'd all taken turns at bawling our eyes out.  Why?  My dad had just been diagnosed with Stage 3 Lung Cancer.

He was diagnosed just a few weeks prior to Christmas.  When I found out, I sat in my car and cried for about an hour.  I was devastated.  The prognosis wasn't good.  They weren't sure if it had spread, where it might have and how he would handle chemotherapy.  I felt my world caving in and time stop.  All I wanted to do was to drive as fast as I could to the Black Hills, where their ranch is, and hold him and my mother close.

What did I do?  Well, I made it home finally, for one.  Then? A whole lot of internet research.  Which, by the way, is not a good idea! They should ban people from the internet after finding something like this out. It only made me more afraid.

I was lucky in some ways though.  My mom is a fantastic Physicians Assistant, who knows her stuff and is a breast cancer survivor herself.  Without her knowledge, strength, wisdom, and unbending faith in God, I don't think any of us in the family could have made it through.

All of this combined, made for a very sentimental and heartfelt Christmas.  Lots of hugging, deep conversations, laughter and of course tears.  I don't know that I've ever loved my family more, than at that Christmas. Not that I don't love them all of the time, but there was just something super special about it and our time together as a family.

I've always understood that you need to love like it's your last day on earth.  But this really brought it home.  Time has since passed, my dad went through chemo and radiation for months.  After which, they announced that he was cancer free. Phew! It's still scary, as it could come back, but we're going on two years now and things are looking good.

But I will always remember that Christmas.  While it was scary, it brought us closer together than ever before.