Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work
FEBRUARY 01, 2017
I found this essay from Cure Today to be a really interesting and provocative topic. Even without cancer in our lives, I suspect that most of us occasionally wonder if this will be our last home or car or dog. Adding cancer to our lives means that we extend these thoughts to include much more. Will this be my last Thanksgiving, my last summer, my last trip to a beloved spot? It is hard not to descend quickly into sadness when we have these considerations, but, maybe, there are other perspectives.
Let's get quickly past the cliches: Yes, we could all get hit by a bus, and we should all try to live our lives as though they might soon end and we should all frequently tell our loved ones how we feel. All true, but having a cancer diagnosis surely underlines the reality of mortality. It definitely does not help us to wallow in these worries, but they might help us better consider our choices and our values. Since we know that we are going to someday die (as opposed to people who have not been given a potentially fatal diagnosis and can live longer in Denial Land), we do have an opportunity to contemplate our lives.
Back to the idea of last things and experiences. Since this could always turn out to be the reality, and since we are aware of that in ways that others may not be, we can use this information to better inform our choices. If this may be the last time I buy a car, maybe I can splurge a little or really be sure that I am getting what I want, not just what is the most practical. (and, yes, I am aware of financial realities). If I am unsure that I will ever again get to California, I will be more likely to be certain that I visit a beloved spot or seek out a new place that has interested me. Choices like these will enrich our lives, no matter how long we may live.
You may know the other cliche: Live as though you have two lives and this is your second.
And here is the article:
Cancer and Coming to Terms With Some "Last Things"
You'll Ever Have
My wife and I recently adopted a desert tortoise from the Arizona Desert
Museum. These animals are listed as “threatened,” and once one is found
injured they are returned to health before being put up for adoption, never
again to be released to the wild.
The first thing I was told when I participated in the lengthy application process was that this tortoise would definitely outlive me. They can easily exist for 80 years, and since I am 66 as I write this, it would be big news if I survived to be 146 years old, outliving this new addition to our family.
And so the museum insisted that we include the tortoise in our will, insuring that the animal would be cared for or, at the very least, returned to the museum rather than being released in the desert after my death, where it would be certain to perish.
And that’s when it “hit home”— this very notion that I actually have things in my life now that I will not live long enough to replace. At first I was horrified by the thought of it. I always believed there would be one more vacation, one more new car and one more day.
As a cancer survivor, I have learned to treat every day as if it could be my last. After two-and-a-half years of living this way, it has become a way of life.