Tuesday, October 07, 2008
An Unwanted Journey: Day 1049 - Rainbows and Clouds
When I was recovering from my first bout with cancer, when I was told there was "no evidence of disease", I would struggle sometimes reading updates from Randy Pausch or Leroy Sievers. Part of that struggle, I assumed, was that their declining health reminded me that I was doing better than they were. I didn't like those reminders. I was glad I was feeling better, so anyone reminding me that cancer sucks, that cancer kills, that cancer can come back at any moment - well, those were things I would rather forget.
But when I learned that my cancer was back and that it had metastasized to the liver (and later would learn that it had metastasized outside the liver as well), even then I had a hard time reading the updates.
And then they died. As did two other acquaintances within the past few weeks.
Reading what they had written filled me with foreboding and a sense of dread. Sure, much of what they wrote was also inspirational and truly helpful in setting priorities and reflecting on what a journey with cancer could be. But it's hard work and it demands courage. Life before cancer seemed simpler and didn't make so many demands.
I realize that there are distinct advantages in not being forced into thinking about a relatively narrow, circumscribed, limited future. You plan, you think about eventually having grandchildren, you consider what retirement will look like, what kind of contributions you can still make, what talents you can still develop.
But then the doctor tells you that your prognosis is about 20 to 24 months, that if you want to do some traveling, you should probably do it now, that the future will be filled with chemo and side effects. All of a sudden, much of the future simply drops off the map. Is it any wonder that people don't want to be reminded of such things?
But there are advantages too. Some things which one might otherwise take for granted offer up nuances and meaning that wasn't as obvious before. You open your eyes and see things that you might otherwise gloss over - things like rainbows and clouds, things like water rushing over the Horseshoe Falls, things like winning modestly at the casino, things like a meal with your family at the Outback, things like watching a Raptors game together, things like listening to your favourites play list on the iPod while traveling in the car, things like a sip of a piping hot and ridiculously expensive Americano with Hazelnut flavouring at the hotel's Starbucks...
These are things that slip by, often unnoticed, sometimes observed but discounted because they don't fit with your planning exercises, things that are by nature fleeting and temporary. I don't mean to sound unnecessarily Buddhist here, but the truth is that all things change, all things decay, all things will fade - it's just a matter of when. The good news in all this is that redirecting and limiting one's perspective to narrower bands of time means that those fleeting experiences can be savoured and relished. As I've hinted before, it's a matter of attitude and a choice to invest oneself as fully as possible in the time that is available.
Even though I would rather have the luxury of more choice, the choices available to me now are good enough. After all, rainbows and clouds can be absolutely glorious.