DO NOT WASTE TIME WITH CANCER – OR WITHOUT IT!

One of my dearest college friend’s, who knows me like a sister, gave me a wonderful plaque after I was diagnosed with cancer. It is a quote by Vivian Greene and says “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass: It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

I look at this plaque every day. I may have seen or heard this statement before, but it never had the meaning for me that it does now. My friend always knows how I feel, what to say, and what to give me!

Before cancer, I always felt life would improve as I got older. Like most people, I was searching for the perfect job, more money, an amazing partner, a gorgeous house and eventually a stress free retirement. Much of our lives seem to be taken up with “If only” I had more money, a better boss, moved to another town, everything would be better.

This is fiction. Another wonderful quote attributed to Woody Allen says “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” Allegedly, this saying comes from an old Yiddish proverb, “Man plans, God laughs.” Think back over your life and all the plans you had. While you were working to make a living, raise a family, further your education and get food on the table – those plans do not always come to fruition. But how much of this would you truly change?

I know now living in my twilight years, that there is no perfect age. Children are full of fears; teenage years usually suck; college and beyond can be fraught with money worries. Then comes marriage and raising a family, advancing (or not) in a career and looking towards retirement. By the time one actually retires, a lot of the frenzy of life is past, but some days I feel like every part of my body aches. I often say I wish I had the body I did when I was young and the wisdom I do now.

No phase of life is totally good or bad. There is always rain. Jobs are lost, loved one are gone, relationships are broken, money is an issue, ill health strikes and other unforeseen events happen to us. If we wait for everything to be perfect, it never is.

So we learn to dance. We enjoy the present, not the future. We sing and are happy along the way. Storms do fall, but we dance with them.

No time does this ever hit home like when we have cancer. Everything gets more “real.” If we waste time thinking it will all go away, and we will be well again, we are wasting valuable time. For some cancers like mine, the cancer is incurable. Other cancers may be “cured” but long time effects like lymph edema and chemo fog still remain.

I have even found how to dance during treatments. I obviously do not enjoy driving across town 5 days a week every month to go to the cancer center and have two painful shots in my stomach, which are sore for days afterwards. But I have found it helps so much with the great staff at the center. I always ask the nurses, receptionists, and the doctor about their families and what is going on with them. After all I know my story, but I do not know theirs. Since I was a counselor for many years, I find everyone’s story fascinating. I have been told about pregnancies, engagements, sick children, retirements and all the things that happen to people I enjoy, just like when I was in the workplace. I learn to know some of the other patients in the waiting room. Often, I run into a student or two I taught at the community college where I worked for 10 years and get caught up in their life. It all is dancing in the rain.

And every minute I worry, I am not dancing. All the worrying I do (and I am a born one) gives me one second less to laugh and sing and dance. Rain will fall on my parade and everyone else’s too. I still go out with my friends and family, tell them funny stories about chemo fog, laugh and enjoy life. I cannot wait for life to be perfect.

So – pull on your rain boots, slip on a raincoat, run outside, open your mouth, catch the raindrops, laugh and sing. Your neighbors may think you are crazy but that is all right! Enjoy life because that is what we are meant to do!