Despite my best attempts to keep my life relatively uncluttered, this week threw a lot at us and now I’m drawing breath, with my wife having just left for a trip to Hungary with friends, which I was unable to make. This time last week I was taking my Mother to A+E where she needed some urgent care, and since then I have had numerous communications with all the people involved in her case. To add to that, my wife was driving and got hit by a great big truck, fortunately she is ok, just a little shaken but the car is a mess and we are now dealing with the fall out from that, insurance companies, hire car etc! But on a more positive note I received an all clear on a scan I had been waiting for so that is very good news.
Last weekend my focus was entirely on my Mother, yet that doesn’t seem a week ago. At the time it was tough, watching her in pain till the ambulance came then watching the doctors do their stuff. She became my entire focus for days, but now all the services are up to speed and more coordinated I can feel slightly easier. Having just got to grips with that, my wife phoned early one morning to say that she had been in an accident, so my focus shifted to her. Then I went to hospital to talk about some recent tests, where at least a crucial scan proved to be clear. All of those things came totally unexpected, and were massive at the time they happened but have all passed and we are left to pick up the pieces from ‘Hurricane Life.’
All these events have prompted me to think about how life works for us. We all have incredible highs and lows plus a lot of relatively mundane stuff in the middle, work, chores etc. But whatever it is we are going through, it is temporary. Our focus has to move to what life throws our way next. Of course, temporary can last shorter or longer each time, but what ever you are enjoying or enduring will not be permanent. They say that time is a great healer, but I’m not convinced of that. My feeling is that it masks the scars we all have somewhere, by distracting us with other things.
Whilst composing this piece I did a quick ‘stock take’ of my own life and picked out some highs and lows, and without fail I believed that none of them would end! My work where I was so happy, and my early days of sickness where I could see no positive end are just two examples of that. Those great summer days turn to autumn before you realise it, but conversely winter turns to spring! It seems that my illness has made me see life so differently to before. Maybe it is because I have more time to think, and obviously those things have been happening all my life, but they seem to have a different meaning now.
I feel an element of both relief and frustration at times. Relief to know that if I am having a tough time, then I will be expecting some positive things to follow, but also frustration, knowing that the good times won’t last either! During the various stages of my illness, it always felt like each one was never going to end. Chemotherapy was a nightmare, months in isolation was challenging in many ways, and the constant viruses and infections, awfully frustrating but they all come and go. I know that this pattern of health will be repeated for the rest of my life, with now smaller time gaps in between.
Understanding life in this way, really has made me appreciate the good times when they arrive, and I have learned now not to get too far down when things are less positive. It seems that I have finally understood that most things in life just happen, whatever plans we like to make. Before my illness I was a planner, and I felt there was a structure to my life but things are so different now! I have my hospital appointments, then a few work engagements but the rest of the time I try to keep clear for family time and anything last minute that crops up, which inevitably there is plenty. This week I was given extra appointments to attend, plus dealing with things for my mum and the time has gone yet again.
Whilst watching an old music programme with my son recently, he commented on the ‘terrible clothes’ in the 90s. I said “you lived in that time, didn’t you notice it then?” To which he replied “no, I guess I was wearing them too!” Which is another example of how things change, clothes, music, technology etc. When living in one era it is hard to imagine how things will develop to take us to the next stage. It feels that life is moving so quickly now, maybe it’s because I’m older that I view it that way, but nothing seems to stay the same for very long, good or bad.
My illness has become my most effective teacher, and I have learned so much since my diagnosis. Our most important assets are health and time, both of which diminish daily, so it is important to make the most of them while you can. Life will ensure that even the tough times don’t last forever, but make the most of the good ones when they come, because neither will they! Everything is temporary!
As always, these are my own views and experiences and it would great to hear yours. Do you see your life this way or totally differently? How has your illness changed the way you look at life? Please feel free to share your views below.
Great blog, Chris.
Cancer does highlight the value of savoring the moment. In reality, it is all we have. If only we could make those good moments extend into time! And if only we were prescient enough to know what lay ahead, so that we could have context for the moment. But we don’t.
I also used to plan. Now I subscribe to the saying “Man plans, God laughs!” Cancer has sent me on a spiritual quest that I find endlessly fascinating. I don’t believe in organized religion (for me) but I do believe that a spiritual practice and daily gratitude are simultaneously grounding and liberating.
Have a great weekend! Carpe Diem (my personal cancer battlecry)
Thanks so much Pat.
I think you and I have many things in common and particularly the way we view life after cancer. My saying is very similar to yours, “what man proposes, God disposes!” there is a certain attraction to not knowing what tomorrow may bring, particularly after years of planning.
I feel that I have learned to recognise the valuable moments in my life and do celebrate them adequately. Like you I find daily gratitude very liberating. My life is now all about giving, and that is where my joy comes from.
Carpe Diem Pat, and thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts which are so valuable to others.
I recognize myself in your post, Chris – forgetting that there’s a future out there in which things will look very different from today. To offset this tendency when current circumstances are challenging, I bring to mind a most wonderful teaching: what if everything is perfect, just as it is? Helps me take a larger perspective and see the learning and evolution taking place, even if I wouldn’t have chosen the circumstances under which that learning is taking place. Sometimes I find a blessing that I’d overlooked.
Wishing you and your Mum peace and comfort!
I absolutely love that Shani! This post has stimulated so much positive conversation, and you are so right about learning from circumstances you haven’t chosen. Cancer has brought many of us into a new world, and we are learning so much from it. There are times I struggle to recognise myself from the guy I was before cancer, but it’s happened.
Life keeps moving whether we like it or not, and that is nature. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your kind words, Mum is improving! Chris
Thank you as always Chris for your blog, your thoughts are always some of the same as I share. I do hope your wife and mother will be back to their normal health soon. I am waiting now for my knees to have new joints had the pre op and am just waiting for a date the sooner the better hope to be able walk properly in the near future. So pleased your scan came back good for you. Thank you again, take care while your wife is away don’t overdo it. Trouble is we don’t listen do we? I know I don’t xxx
Thanks so much Georgine, and I hope they hurry up with your knees! Life can be tough at times, without adding health issues to the mix. Mum has an operation to focus on now, so she is happier as it has taken a long time. My wife will bounce back soon, I’m sure! Thanks as always for your kind words xx