A mother hugging a daughter close

Let's Not Waste a Moment

We live in a world of procrastinators. I know because I'm guilty of it myself. Procrastination is a behavior founded on delays and putting things off. Some who are the best at this justify they don't have the time or energy to seek out an answer or complete a task.

It often starts early in life when a coping measure known as avoidance sets in motion. Then it easily becomes a habit. For example, "I didn't complete my term paper because I couldn't get a ride to the library. My Internet went out and I couldn't do the research." Or even, "My dog ate my homework." Ultimately some describe a sense of uncertainty, feelings of anxiety, or a fear at the inability to reach perfection. Or is it a fear of facing reality?

The results are in

In his book Notes to Myself: My Struggle to be a Person, Hugh Prather describes a belief that "Anxiety is the tension between my desire to control the world and the recognition I can't." Anxiety takes on many forms including a fear of failure or simply not being good enough. A not-good-enough message you receive in childhood or along your way in life contributes to doubting your self-worth. Giving up on doing better, some are even willing to accept criticism for being lazy or ornery. However, remember all behavior has meaning. The associated thoughts, and feelings may be changed.

What is your new reality?

Surely most people have time to balance their checkbooks, do the laundry, or wash the dishes after dinner. These are some of the many activities of daily living. However, having cancer changes our lives in ways known and unknown. Many of us don't have the luxury of time to address things head-on. Energy may need to be parceled and used when necessary, not at the whim of someone else's timetable.

Learning new ways to cope

Based on energy levels during rounds of chemo, I do my best to get the simple tasks done. Admittedly, there are days getting off the couch is the most I can do. Not everyone has the support of a loving presence, but this can be a big benefit. Learn to ask for help and include others in your thinking about any change in your ability at a given moment in time. If you are willing, learn to rely on others for help without relinquishing your independence and mastery.

Do you have someone in your life who can watch over the outcome of your efforts or even take on some responsibilities when energy and concentration decline? Perhaps not. I like to call this a job opening. This is a job centered on you. Consider identifying people in your life who you trust to be there for you in a different way.

Embrace time

When I was just 18 years old and at the start of nursing school, my professor asked, "Imagine that in three days from now, and without warning, you wake up and suddenly you are blind? How would you live your life differently knowing your eyesight will end?" Most of us admitted we would immediately leave school and return home to the support of people we love. Perhaps for the first time, our class realized that health is a gift and time was precious.

With this simple exercise, we touched on the reality that life as we know it may change, be limited, or even end. Of course, this is tough for a carefree teenager about to embark on a lifetime of caring for others. The thought was frightening. Yet, the intent of this exercise stayed with me as I learned to care for people facing the limitations imposed on life by disease or normal aging. Most importantly it became a foundation for my own life chapters and how fully I hoped to live.

Play catch up

In learning I had Ovarian Cancer Stage 3C, I realized a need to play "catch up." For years I was absorbed in the work of raising a family and juggling a career. I suddenly had the time, albeit limited, to think about all the people and things I left untouched along the way.

We made a list of activities we could do as a family. I observed my energy levels and allowed for rest when necessary. Carving out time to fit in a cruise to Canada and a visit to family in Alabama and Florida were at the top of our agenda. I maintain an awareness that "This may be the last time."

These events were carefully wedged into a span between chemo and usually on the days I would suddenly wake with some energy. This time travel required a wheelchair or a walker or both. [I had to come to terms with the fact that I used to run through Hartsfield Jackson Airport in Atlanta two times a week to connect to flights to work or home.] Yes, life is different, and then there was Covid.

Plan your exit

Most important of all to me was the reconnection to people who I may not get to see again. I wanted to hear them, see them and touch them in order to remember what we meant to each other. It was a time to resolve old hurts, sometimes ask forgiveness, but most of all leave each other in a place of love and forgiveness. This takes more work than you may imagine, but worth every single minute and every breath of energy.

Today, I leave you with love.

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