What happens to us when we’re told we don’t have much time left in this life?
“You’re cancer has spread.” “You have metastatic disease” “It’s time to get your affairs in order.”
It doesn’t matter which words are used, the message is so devastating and so final. Something shifts inside us, our hearts change their rhythm and we’ll never forget the moment. It’s time-stamped in our memory.
Speaking from the care-givers corner, it’s a shock to hear those words. I don’t care how many times you’ve been told how serious things are, you always hold on to the hope that something will change the odds and the outcome. For me, the tears came without warning. They just rolled down my cheeks in a constant stream and there was nothing I could do to stop them. I don’t think I heard another word after that either. The world had shifted and thrown me off my axis.
I think it’s different for the patient. All the time and energy that had been spent going through treatment and all the highs and lows of going through cancer period, has prepared the patient. They become so wise beyond their years fighting this disease that when those terrible words spill out, they slide to another level of acceptance. Maybe that’s when they achieve that ‘inner peace’ we’ve talked about so often. Look into their eyes and even though they’re so sad that the end is near, they move to a place that allows them to begin a plan to say good-bye on their own terms.
Cancer does so many terrible things to those of us who have been touched by it. The more I think of it, the more I realize it also teaches us one of life’s most valuable lessons. We might not get all the years we think we need to make a full life. Our future is our present. It is our most precious gift.