Recently I was graced by the presence of a friend who is in the midst of battling cancer. It was a very special privilege, a reminder of how precious we each are, and how every day is a gift.
To have an aggressive or advanced cancer and to meet it head on transports that person and their loved ones into a different state of being. Most people not facing a life threatening disease go about their daily life with an underlying sense that the future is measured in many years. There is time to think about what might happen next year, to plan for retirement; there is time to day dream about the future. But cancer changes all that. What is important is now: family, friends, the warm sun and the beautiful blue sky. Now is so very precious and important. Now is the time to tell your spouse you love them, to notice and share the beauty in your child. The present is alive with the beautiful energy of life and love. It is almost as if the people without cancer are living on the surface of the earth, below the clouds on a partly sunny day, while those absorbed in the intensity of living with cancer have the opportunity to rise up and see those clouds not from below, but from above, to experience the radiant blue sky and the brilliance of the tops of white clouds and bright sunlight.
I know this heightened awareness of living, as my life was once acutely threatened by cancer. I felt uncertainty and fear, but when I was able to move through and above those feelings, I experienced a clarity of perspective, a vivid awareness of the beauty of life. I know it, I have lived it, but am not there now. As far as I know, if my good fortune continues, I am free of my cancer. Over the past couple of years, I have gradually rejoined the cancer-free crowd, and as such have slipped into the inevitable routine of thinking and feeling too often into the future. Because I am not acutely threatened as I once was, I have slipped out of that special, heightened state of being. I love to appreciate the present and try to take nothing for granted, but it is not the same. There is no substitute for the real thing.
Spending an hour with this very special person who was immersed in the cancer experience, whose eyes sparkled as she smiled at her daughter and told her husband she loved him, was truly a gift. It reminded me of my experience, and how important it is to strive – all of us – to experience and appreciate life to the fullest. Just by trying, we can make our lives and the lives of those around us that much more close to that special, almost divine, state of being.