What Cancer Taught Me: 6 Ways to Make Every Moment Count
Sometimes we go through life like we have all the time in the world. But what if tomorrow with your loved one isn’t guaranteed?
This past year I realized how fragile life is. My husband started vomiting blood, eight months into our marriage. A month later he was diagnosed with cancer. It has been 3 months since he finished chemotherapy and each day with him still feels like a gift. The knowledge of how delicate life is, of how easily life can end, punctuates every aspect of our relationship. Once it felt like we had all the time in the world to make our dreams come true. Now, we try to live our dreams every day because we don’t know what the future holds.
A diagnosis of a dread disease like cancer can make you realize that there isn’t always plenty of time, that the moments we have with our loved ones are all that we have. Even without cancer it is easy to feel that there is fragility to our lives. It is rare to find a person who hasn’t lost a close friend or family member to a car accident or unexpected heart attack.
James 4:14 reminds us that we are a mist that appears for a little while then vanishes, and that we don’t know what will happen tomorrow. The flimsiness of our lives calls to us to slow down, look around and capture the here-and-now with the people we love.
Here are six ways to make every moment count:
1. Remember life is happening right now. This is one of my husband’s favorite phrases. We often say it when we have an option before us that we could put off till tomorrow but by doing so could miss out living right now. Life isn’t something that you can press the pause button on; it isn’t something that you can decide to start tomorrow. Right now, whether you like it or not, whether you like your circumstances or the surroundings, your life is happening. You can sit back and watch others live their lives, or you can realize that your life is happening right now, and stand up and say, “Count me in! I want to be part of all the messiness, beauty and flurry of life.”
2. Tick it off. In the middle of my husbands chemotherapy he received an invitation to be a VIP at the Giro d’Italia – the second biggest cycling race in the world. For my cycling obsessed husband, the chance to meet the riders, follow the race by helicopter and stand at the finish line was something he had always dreamed of. After receiving the go-ahead from his oncologist, we spent a whirlwind week in Italy living his dream. It has been a highlight of our year. One of the best ways to make every moment count is to live the life that you’ve always wanted. So dust off that bucket list, decide which dreams are achievable and just tick them off.
3. Slow down. It’s easy to think that embracing life and making the most of every minute means you need to do a lot of stuff. That’s not true. Often focusing on the simple, ordinary things that both of you love is the best way to make the most of your time. Why not sit in comfortable silence with the one you love, go for a walk or share a favorite meal?
4. Make time, not money. While my husband was receiving chemotherapy I was holding down a full time job. I realized that every minute I spent at the office after my usual working hours stole from the time I could be with my husband. It became my priority to ensure that my work was done by 5pm so I wouldn’t waste precious time at the office. Unfortunately, illness often puts stress on our budgets and finances, but if you make spending time with your loved one a priority, you will never regret it. In life you will be able to make more money, but no matter what you do, you can never make more time.
5. Laugh often. Realizing that your time with a loved one may be short can be stressful for both of you. A great way to relieve stress is to laugh a lot. An added bonus of this is that research has shown that our memories are often tied to strong emotions. By sharing lots of humorous moments you’ll be banking up lots of good memories of your time together.
6. Enjoy what you do see. On honeymoon in South Africa my husband and I spent a day doing a safari. We were particularly keen to see a big cat or two. While scanning the bush for animals our guide told us that he’s learnt the best way to experience a safari is to enjoy what you do see. My husband and I have transferred this wisdom into many areas of our lives, especially since his treatment has meant at times we miss out on things that we’d love to do. It is a reality of life that you don’t get to do everything that you want, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t fully enjoy what you do get to do.
Wendy van Eyck is proudly South African and lives in Johannesburg where she runs a 24-hour Gospel Music Television channel that broadcasts to 47 African countries. Her website www.ilovedevotionals.com features devotionals that range from learning about God while doing laundry to discovering biblical truths while caring for her cancer fighting husband. Follow her on twitter: @wendyvaneyck or find her on Facebook.