Despite having a terminal disease, I’ve experienced some of the greatest happiness of my life during the past year. I feel as though I am young again, with each day filled with keenly-felt wonder and enjoyment.
I made a conscious decision at the beginning of my experience with cancer not to let my diagnosis get me down. Although I can’t change what has happened to me, I CAN choose how I respond to the situation.
Statistically, I’m likely to live one to three years with this carcinosarcoma, half of which is already gone. If I have only X number of months remaining, then it makes sense to enhance my experience of those remaining months as best I can. There’s no point sinking into depression and wasting the time that’s left, or harboring thoughts like “this is SO unfair” or “my life is ruined”.
Instead, I do everything I can to enhance my enjoyment of each day. I traveled to Italy for a last adventure, and I regularly spend time with my closest friends and with my family. Projects keep me busy and engaged, and I’ve been enjoying a great burst of expressive creativity.
Each day, as I’ve done throughout my life, I record thoughts in my daily journal. Each day I spend half an hour or so in the yard and garden, examining plants, pulling weeds, looking at the sky, and experiencing the sun and breeze and humidity. Each day I walk for 30 to 60 minutes, either on the treadmill if weather is bad, or outside if weather is good. Lately I’ve been identifying The Most Beautiful Thing of each day, or sometimes The Coolest Thing I’ve seen during the day.
For example, The Most Beautiful Thing two days ago was a Siberian iris bud that was ready to open the following day. It was tightly furled like a little umbrella, deep purple, beautifully delineated, and with a most perfect spiral line circling down from its velvety top point. The Most Beautiful Thing the day before that was a gigantic old catalpa tree with a massive trunk, a perfect shape, and covered with white orchid-like flowers. The Coolest Thing this morning was spotting a mass of tiny gnats all dancing in a transparent cloud that glowed as it was backlit by the sun, and then noticing as I rode in the car’s passenger seat that countless similar glowing clouds of gnats were hanging suspended above lawns, like shimmering ghostly globules, all the way between May’s Greenhouse and the city to the north.
Lately I’ve been counting rabbits on my walks outside. The city always has an explosion of its rabbit population at this time of year, and for the past two years I’ve counted all the rabbits I’ve passed during my daily perambulations. I take care to follow a circular route so I don’t count any rabbits twice by accident. Last year’s one-day record was 19 rabbits, but yesterday I saw 20! Bad news for gardeners, but fun for me. And it’s not even really about the rabbits themselves. Instead, the act of looking for rabbits enables me to see things that I normally might overlook, like landscaping in a side yard, trees in flower, flagstone hardscaping, deer flitting across lawns, birdfeeders, etc. And by looking at these things I often spot The Most Beautiful Thing Of The Day, or The Coolest Thing. And doing this has helped enhance my life enormously.
We can’t SEE if we aren’t looking. And we can’t FEEL if we don’t open ourselves up to experiences.
As Elmer Fudd famously said, “Shhhh! I’m hunting wabbits.”