Anyone with a diagnosis of cancer knows how it can make you look at your life and how you are living it a little differently. Some cancer patients make radical changes – such as quitting a job, finding more meaning in spirituality, or taking on something that they always wanted to do and doing it. These changes can sometimes be life changing. In the July 28 issue of Cure, the article “Patients With Cancer Find Purpose in Radical Feats,” highlights people who have been diagnosed with cancer and have then done something new, something that they wanted to do now that their life may be ending. The cancer diagnosis allowed them to find the inner strength they needed to take on these challenges. One patient climbed Mount Everest, another started a major fundraiser for metastatic breast cancer.
In addition to making big changes and undertaking grand gestures, for some people, it is finding the joy in everyday tasks. All of our life’s journeys are uniquely our own, all are experiences that affect the unique way we our lives. Part of living is facing our own mortality. As uncomfortable as it is to think and talk about, we are all going to die.
Recently, I was talking to a survivor of malignant pleural mesothelioma. He was in his late 60’s and had been diagnosed 18 months ago. Since then he had surgery, chemotherapy, and was back for a possible reoccurrence. Before his diagnosis, he had been working, avoiding retirement, unsure if he ever would retire. He was fearful that he would retire and have too much time on his hands, and end up doing a lot of things he did not want to do in order to keep his wife happy. He did not see retirement as an event to look forward too.
Now 18 months later, he has put his diagnosis of malignant pleural mesothelioma in a positive light. He is grateful for every shared trip to the grocery store, doing errands together, going out with friends. For him, being diagnosed with cancer gave a different meaning to his retirement. He has a new sense of purpose, enjoying every minute of his life. The cancer diagnosis has put work and living in perspective. As he said, “What I feared about retirement is now what I enjoy and live for.”
For some people, a cancer diagnosis can spur major changes, for others it can make them appreciate what has always been in their lives. It can change your outlook on what is and is not important. Everyone’s response will be as unique as they are. Facing our own mortality will do that to us!