I got an e-mail the other day from a long time reader who just needed to vent. She is 55 years old and has been diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. The doctors have told her that it has metastasized and the outcome is not going to be good. With Terry having survived stage IV cervical cancer, I know just how devastating news like that is, both to the patient and to their families.
But she didn’t e-mail me to talk about cancer. She wrote to say that we all have a bucket list, and some of us have been fortunate to check off many of the items from that list. Others never get around to doing much at all. She said she fit into that latter category. There are a lot of things that she always wanted to do but they never happened for different reasons. She said she has always wanted to learn to ride a motorcycle, but when she was growing up she was told that girls don’t do that. And then she became a wife and a mother and it wasn’t something she felt she could do. She dreamed of going back to college, and she told herself that someday when the kids were out of the house she was going to do that. But things always got in the way and it was put on to the back burner and eventually forgotten. The biggest item on her bucket list, the thing she wanted to do more than anything else, was to go skydiving. But it had always been the same story – “You’re a wife and a mother, you can’t take chances with your life, you need to concentrate on doing serious things.”
Now that she knows she doesn’t have a lot of time left, she has decided that she wants to make that jump just once while she still can. But her husband, her two daughters, and her mother are all absolutely opposed to her doing so. They’re telling her that she could get hurt. She could even die. Her response is, “I’m going to die anyway, and I would much rather do it jumping out of an airplane than I would lying in a hospital bed with tubes sticking out of my body.” She told her family that she was going to do it no matter how they felt about it.
She said she wasn’t asking for advice, she just needed to rant a little bit. I replied that even though she had not asked for my advice, I was going to give it to her, and it was worth exactly what she paid for it. I said if I was in her position, I would not hesitate to do that tandem jump with the instructor that she has wanted to do for so long. Yes, people do die in parachuting accidents. People also die in traffic accidents and boating accidents and home accidents. And a lot of people die of cancer.
Statistically speaking, the odds are that she won’t get hurt or killed and that she will have a memory to enjoy in the time she has left. But if the worst happened, at least she would leave this world with a big smile on her face.
I think I’ve shared with you before that my father loved to read. From the time I was a little boy, he read me stories about Moby Dick and the Drums Along the Mohawk and Treasure Island. But his favorite books were always about Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. My Dad always said that someday he was going to take a month off and rent a houseboat and float down the Mississippi River.
But that never happened. Raising kids and working and doing everything else required of a family man always got in the way. Dad died of cancer, and on his deathbed, I asked him what his one regret was. He said that the one thing he wished he could turn back time and do was take those 30 days and float down the Mississippi. In 74 years on this earth, he never found the time. We don’t regret the things we do nearly as much as we regret the things we never got around to doing.
I was also reminded of another friend who had cancer. Her diagnosis wasn’t nearly as bad, but it was not a minor issue, either. This is someone who always watched her weight, cared about her appearance, and stayed away from junk food, sodas, or anything that wasn’t heart and body healthy.
She said that after her first radiation treatment, she and her grandmother passed a Dunkin’ Donuts on the way home, and she mentioned that it had been so many years since she had a doughnut, and every time she drove by that place she was tempted to go in and get one. Then she thought about how many miles she would have to walk on the treadmill just wear off those extra calories, and she never did.
Grandma, who was driving, made a U-turn and pulled into the parking lot to Dunkin’ Donuts. My friend asked her what they were doing, and Grandma said, “I’ll be 80 next month. I have survived wars, and the polio epidemic, and tornadoes, and a house fire, and one thing I know is that no matter what you do, no matter how careful you are, sooner or later, something is going to take you out of this life. Six people are going to carry your casket, so it doesn’t matter if you have an extra pound or two on you. Eat the damn donut!”
How about you? Is there something you have always wanted to do but you keep putting it off because it’s not practical, or there’s not enough time, or whatever your excuse is? Throw those excuses out the window. Eat the damn donut. Jump out of the airplane. Live while you can. Because we all come with an expiration date, and none of us know when it is.
It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Fight For the Kingdom by Victoria Schwimley. It’s the story of two boys who go on a camping trip and find themselves on a magical adventure in another land. This is one your grandkids will love. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing, please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.
Thought For The Day – We must accept the end of something to begin something new.