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It all started in December when, for the third time in two years, my husband and I sat with an oncologist and heard the words, “I’m sorry, you have cancer.” My husband, Xylon, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma eight months after our wedding. Most of our married life has been consumed with visits to oncology wards, chemotherapy, and all the emotional toil that goes along with it.
Last year, Xylon underwent a stem cell transplant - a procedure that has an 80% success rate with his type of cancer. We were both so hopeful that the time had come to close the “cancer chapter” in our lives. Then, at his follow up scan 3 months later, the doctors discovered two active regions. In other words, there were still cancerous cells in his body. We cancelled our plans for December and instead scheduled in twenty sessions of radiation. Once again our lives were on hold for a disease that we have no control over.
We took a week of vacation in January and began to talk about all that we’ve been through in the last two years. And then we started dreaming about how we would like our lives to look. Together we decided to take some time off to relax and relook at where we are going with our lives.
Eventually, we decided to cut our work commitments in half. For my husband, this meant he completely quit one of his two jobs - in his case the one that added the most stress. I’ll be taking patches of unpaid leave over the next few months that will give me the flexibility to travel with him while cutting my income in half. We are fortunate to be in the work and financial position to do this but even so we haven’t taken this decision to spend together and pursue things we want to do lightly.
Every one faces big decisions in life at some point. I hope the decisions you making don’t involve a loved one being diagnosed with cancer. I hope they are “fun” decisions like when to buy a house, or which job to take, or whether or not to have children. Regardless of the choices you’re facing, I thought it might be helpful to share some of the questions we asked ourselves while trying to make this decision.
What is my greatest fear and opportunity?
One lunch we sat down and asked each other two questions: First, “What is your greatest fear?” Once we had both answered that, we asked, “What is your greatest opportunity?” I found this exercise helpful for me because often I discover that the thing I fear the most is also where my greatest opportunity for the future lies.
It also helped me to put things into perspective. When I answered the question about my greatest fear. My answer wasn’t about losing my job or not being able to pay bills, it was about missing out on making memories with my husband. Knowing what was important to me helped to shape the decisions I made about how to spend our time and money.
Will this hurt anyone and are the consequences lasting?
No matter how often we like to forget this or even try to live as if it isn’t true, our actions do affect the people around us. For instance, by requesting unpaid leave, some of my colleagues have to pick up extra work to create the opportunity for my husband and I to pursue what we want. As we made our decisions I constantly had to take a step back, view the bigger picture, and work out how our decisions would impact each other, our families, friends and people we work with.
We also had to evaluate the impact of choosing to be paid a lower income for a period of time. Together we looked at our finances and had to decide whether or not doing this would put us in any financial trouble in the short and long term. While neither of us believe that money is our biggest priority, we also did not want to make a quick decision that would have long-lasting consequences we would regret.
Is this the best, not perfect, time to do this?
One thing I realized while we went to-and-fro about our decision is that there is no perfect time to do something like this. I think it’s the same with figuring out when to buy a house, have a baby or change jobs; if we spend too much time trying to figure out if our timing is perfect we won’t ever do anything. For us, we looked at our jobs and finances and decided that it might not be the perfect time to do it but it was the best time to do it.
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What will I regret the most?
Throughout the process one question hung over all our decisions, “What will I regret the most?” For me, in twenty years time I probably won’t remember that I missed out on a few months salary, but I would regret not taking the opportunity to make some fun memories with my husband. This question, like the one about consequences, helps to put things in perspective and remind me what my life priorities are.
No matter what your decisions are, may these four questions help to guide your decisions, and not add stress to your choices. Most of the things we fear don’t happen, but often our fears stop us from doing the things we dream about. Take the time to consider your options and figure out a way to live the life God has given you.
Not Really Sure
Wendy van Eyck is married to Xylon, who talks non-stop about cycling, and makes her laugh. She writes for anyone who has ever held a loved one’s hand through illness, ever believed in God despite hard circumstances or ever left on a spontaneous 2-week holiday through a foreign land with just a backpack. You can follow Wendy’s story and subscribe to receive her free ebook, “Life, life and more life” at ilovedevotionals.com. She would also love to connect with you on Facebook and Twitter.