Announcing December’s Daisies: A Tale of Two Albums, a Book, a Blog, and My Most Ambitious Project Yet

A field of daisies.

The story of this blog post, like many stories, has several lines that weave together to form it. And what better place to explore them than this site’s maiden voyage?

The Author

My name is Hector. AT only eleven months old, I was first diagnosed with a rare form of eye cancer called retinoblastoma, which primarily affects infants. The disease went on to take most of my sight on its first attempt, then returned when I was ten years old to take what was left.

Though I am now closing in on two decades of being cancer-free, my diagnosis continues to have repercussions throughout every aspect of my life, and it is these repercussions that inspired me to start this blog and the project that accompanies it.

The Story

In the aftermath of my second fight with retinoblastoma, I fell in love with music, and it became my main tool for coping with the hand that I’d been dealt. As an adult, I have had the honor of sharing this gift through teaching, specifically working with children who now are where I once was.

In a heartbreaking twist, it was the death of one of these children that first started this story. As a survivor who has a circle of friends that contains quite a few fellow survivors, death is no stranger to me. I have had to grieve many friends who were killed by the same disease that tried to kill me. But this time, the loss hit differently. I was helping this child through their own journey using the guiding light that had pulled me through. I was grieving the loss of someone much younger than me who, even through our brief connection, was someone I was actively trying to care for and heal.

It was a certain friend who pulled me through this extremely difficult time with her music. I am a firm believer that the best music is that which takes you somewhere you need to go but are afraid to, and promises to hold your hand through the journey. This friend unknowingly stepped up to the plate with a release that came out shortly after the death, and it was her voice and her words which broke the numbness I was stuck in, and forced me to push forward.

I figured the least I could do was return the favor and write and record a song for her, so off I went to give it a shot. It turned out to be an instrumental piece which I struggled to name. I fell back on my experiences with synesthesia, a neurological condition which causes a person to experience one sense as one or more others. In my case, I “see” sound, with different sounds being different colors. This friend’s voice is yellow, so one evening I found myself jotting down as many yellow things as I could think of that could possibly make a good title.

Eventually the list was narrowed down to flowers, and to Google I went to confirm that the list of flowers I had was, in fact, yellow. While doing my research I came across the symbolic meaning of certain flowers. Of particular interest were daisies, which I learned were significant in Celtic mythology as a gift from god to brighten the days of a family that had lost a child. Given that this particular friend is Irish, the song practically named itself!

The Projects

As the song started to come together, my grief began to dull under the growing presence of excitement and gratitude. TO my surprise, more songs began to sprout. From this first little cluster of material came the idea of December’s Daisies: an album of songs named after a different flower, and each dedicated to a certain person, place, or event which brought me comfort during a difficult time. A sort of musical bouquet, if you will, which I can pull out whenever I need to brighten my day.

As I worked on this project, I began to keep a journal during my work. One of my unfortunate quirks is that I tend to have memory issues when things get rough, and this work was turning out to be so uplifting and fulfilling that I did not want any of that to be lost in case things got rough. As I began to share my idea with my survivor friends, I got quite a few suggestions to consider publishing this journal somehow. So along with December’s Daisies the album, December’s Daisies the book began to take shape: a memoir of the fifteen years or so that I drew from as inspiration for this collection.

Journaling turned out to be an excellent idea, as during my initial progress on the material, I dealt with the most stressful period of my life so far. Retinoblastoma has the nasty habit of returning in various forms throughout the life of the survivor, and I was unlucky enough to have three potential relapse situations, each lasting about six months, and each starting within a few weeks of the previous one. During those eighteen months, I must admit it was rarely easy to keep cranking out the sunflowers and roses. Instead, I found myself writing out my anger, fear, and frustration from a lifelong fight against cancer and its implications. So a twin album started to form next to December’s Daisies. For most of these flowers that I’d gathered, I had to travel through some difficult paths. This album, which is yet to be named, is a sort of map to those paths.

Last but not least, from this time came some experiences which forced me to want to take a more active role as a survivor. It began with patient advocacy, and continues with the creation of this blog. The Secular Survivor will be a place for several things, including publishing excerpts from the December’s Daisies book, and sharing other resources and personal stories related to my experiences as an atheist survivor. The blog is not meant to be an atheist soapbox, as I firmly believe that it is not my place to take away anyone’s source of comfort as long as it is not causing harm to others. As Megan Devine writes in her grief book It’s OK that You’re Not OK: “Track your people through the wilderness of grief until you find your campsite, or make one of your own.” This is my campsite, a place where anyone is welcome, be they a fellow nonbeliever, someone struggling with reconciling their faith with their hardships, or simply the loved one of a nonbeliever who wishes to understand the perspective that their loved one might share.

How to Support Me

All this being said, I will readily admit I have a long, long road ahead of me. I have already received a tremendous amount of support from loved ones who have walked the first steps of this journey with me, but it is now time to start putting this hard work out into the world. I anticipate that the main source of support for these projects will be crowdfunding in a couple different ways. Before the big push that will have its own campaign when the time comes for production on the final product of the albums and book, Patreon is already serving as my main source of financial support for this project. If you wish to help grow our little patron family for as little as $2 a month, information for that can be found at the end of this post, and your support is greatly appreciated!

And of course, no crowdfunding campaign can be successful without plenty of people to help spread the word. Just as appreciated is anyone who wishes to follow my journey and share my progress, which can be done by joining me on social media through the links at the end of this post, and by signing up for The Secular Survivor’s mailing list to receive updates whenever there is a new post.

Thank you for taking interest in my work, and I look forward to completing this journey with you!


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