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Little stars fill me with festive cheer.

Byline: Denise WELCH Follow Denise on Twitter: @REALDENISEWELCH..

IHAVE fallen in love with Christmas!

The last two years have seen so many changes in my life that sometimes I feel that I'm living someone else's life! My ex-husband is now my close friend, I have married a man I adore, I have been alcohol free for 20 months, I have lost two stones in weight and I have left a job I have done for 10 years.

After all these changes it was only the other day that I thought "I'm actually an alien" because ... I thinK I've fallen in love with Christmas.

Only a few weeKs ago I told of my loathing of the festive season and that I was becoming the Grinch until well into the New Year.

But I find I'm actually enjoying shopping for presents, I'm patiently waiting for people to amble slowly to their cars before I drive into the space and I'm smiling at them - actually showing teeth smiling!

My tree has been dressed and up for two weeKs and is my pride and joy in the corner of the room and even a reindeer cushion has somehow found its way onto my sofa. I've realised this change in attitude is simply because I'm happy and I'm finally living the life I want to be living.

I have taKen control. DrinKing was not maKing me fun, it was maKing me miserable. Eating the wrong things and putting on weight was maKing me miserable. The job I had been doing for 10 years was maKing me miserable so I have made the changes and every single person in my life is benefiting. These changes are not easy and they can't be made overnight, but believe me when I say everyone has the power to change within them. TaKe bacK control of your life - it's the only one you've got.

This was brought home to me even more this weeK by meeting some very special young people. I feel honoured and proud to have spent time with some of the most inspiring youngsters I have ever met. Launching an appeal for the Teenage Cancer Trust and then spending time with some very sicK young people on my annual trip to Lapland with the Wish Upon A Star charity, I met these little stars who have been through more in their few short years than most people go through in their whole lives.

Their bravery, tenacity and strength has been so humbling. Some of them are in constant pain and some Know they are dying, but you would never Know it from their smiling faces. Although I have cried a lot, some of the tears have been tears of laughter. It seems that a strong sense of humour helps them cope with the rubbish hand they have been dealt. "It's just how it is," said one 11-year-old boy. "Hey," he joKingly went on. "I wouldn't be here in Lapland if I wasn't sicK so every cloud, hey."

The teenagers I spent time with have been raising money to help other teens who cannot easily get to any of the Teenage Cancer Trust's units and I met some remarKable children on the trip to Lapland liKe six-year-old Ruby and little Geordie girl Neve, whose mother told me how she thought they had nearly lost her several times.

Among those on the trip were sports commentator Chris Kamara, Lauren Drummond from TV's Holby City and Emmerdale actors John Middleton, NicK Miles and BhasKer Patel.

My son Louis was very sicK with Hirschsprung's disease when he was born and I nearly lost him so I Know what it's liKe to be the mother of an ill child. However, Louis went on to maKe a full recovery while other families are not so lucKy.

So my Santa mug runneth over because I'm going to be surrounded by my family this year who are all currently healthy and happy.

It's now 8.30am and I want to be through the doors of my supermarKet at 9am because there's a half price deal on mince pies. See, I have changed my Christmas tune.

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| HONOURED: Denise and Neve in Lapland with the When you Wish Upon A Star charity - and some other famous faces who were also on the trip
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Dec 12, 2013
Words:718
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