Living Life to the Fullest after Your Breast Cancer Diagnosis
Has being diagnosed with cancer changed the way you live?
Think back to that time, pre-diagnosis, when your life stretched out in front of you, a long road winding into the sunset of old age. Sure, the road took some twists and turns; but it was always there in plain sight, leading you to “those golden years.” Years when your biggest decision would be what to have for dinner, and your only responsibility an occasional baby-sitting gig with the grandchildren.
If you’re like most of us, that all changed when you got your diagnosis. A dense fog descended over the road, and you could no longer see where it led. It might stretch out, same as before, to a faraway horizon. And it might plummet you over a cliff just 50 feet away. There was no way to know.
Your blind confidence in a long and happy life was gone, replaced by an endless mental refrain of “What If's?”:
What if I die next year? While the kids are still in school? Before my parents die?
What if I get so sick I can’t work; how will we pay the bills?
What will (fill in the blank) do without me if I die?
Remember what life was like before your diagnosis, before you considered the possibility of anything beyond “I’m going to live till I’m very old”? You were oblivious to a lot of what was going on around you, I’ll bet.
Nose to the grindstone, moving through each day on autopilot, going week to week, month to month, even year to year without really stopping to think that THIS IS YOUR LIFE, and you’d better pay attention. All too often, those of us not touched by cancer live each day as though it were one more step towards The Destination: the 2-week vacation in the Caribbean, the promotion at work, the kids leaving home, retirement. “Let me just get through this hectic week, then I can stop and take a breath.”
But, you know what? One crazy week leads right into the next, and before you know it years have gone by, and you wonder what it’s all meant.
One of the very best things about a cancer diagnosis is that it hits you upside the head. It’s the wakeup call from hell, sure, but it absolutely does wake you up. Cancer unearths all those youthful dreams you once had, but discarded along the way. “Someday, I’m going to hike the Appalachian Trail.” “One of these days, I’d like to try writing poetry.” “I always wanted to play the piano…”
When you have cancer, someday becomes today. And you can stand there and wring your hands, lamenting the fact that you might never have time to do all the things you’ve wanted to do with your life. Or you can look down that foggy road, realize you don’t know where it ends, and make up your mind to fill it with as many attractions as possible along the way, starting right now. Hooray for those of you who’ve chosen the latter path. For those still stuck in the circle of fear and regret, unable to move towards any of your dreams for fear you’ll never find them… take a step. The longer you stand on that road and do nothing, the less chance you have of getting anywhere.
Has being diagnosed with cancer changed the way you live? I sure hope so! You might live to be 90. You might die of cancer in 15 years. You might get hit by a bus tomorrow morning.
EVERYONE’S road stretches into the fog; not a single one of us knows exactly when we’re going to die.
Carpe diem, my friends.
Live your dreams, starting right now.
Published On: December 29, 2006