Soon I will mark 18-months since I was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Oddly, it feels like it was just yesterday at the same time it feels like it's been years. Time is often a topic of my thoughts...how it ebbs and flows depending upon how things are going.
When I was diagnosed and for the first six months, or so, I was not optimistic that I would live beyond the (now outdated) statistic of 6-12 months for folks with stage 4 adenocarcinoma of the lung. I don't know if it's common for others with a terminal illness to feel the way I did, but I suspect there is often a sense of urgency to do things before life ends. Most of the items on my bucket list are not necessarily 'tasks' but rather organizational processes, (which speaks to my personality.)
Here are a few items, (rational and irrational), that were on my short list of things to deal with before my time was up:
1) I wanted to make sure my two (young adult) children were on the right track to being healthy, (mind, body, and spirit), adults. I had a great need to tell them to always be kind, responsible, reliable and dependable, and to save money on their way to becoming prosperous. I felt that if I could see them headed in the right direction in their 20's, they would have the life skills to love, be loved, and find a circle of family, friends and partners that would support them in my absence. I wanted both of them to be neat, eat only healthy foods, exercise regularly, have impeccable table manners, be on time, polite, diplomatic and fair at all times.
2) I wanted to get my house in order. I felt it was necessary to paint the interior, have the patio leveled, pick out new outdoor furniture, get new carpeting, replace old blinds, get new bed linens and empty the basement of all unused stuff.
3) I needed to create as many good memories for Wynn as I could. I wanted him to be able to easily remember our shared experiences unrelated to my illness. Hence, we went to Italy, we bike and ski together whenever possible, and I try to be "present" whenever I'm with him. I also wanted to keep the disagreements to a minimum.
Here's what I've learned about each of the above items now that I'm outliving my own initial expectations:
1) Although I will always be a mother to my children, no matter what age they are, to try to condense everything I wanted to teach them into less than a year was extremely stressful for everyone. I found myself being impatient and inflexible. I realized that if I kept that up, I'd end up driving them away...at a time when I needed them the most.
2) Getting my house in order requires a lot of time, effort and money. As always, I can only do what we can budget for and I must balance my cleaning frenzies with days of rest, so that I don't run out of energy. Also, emptying out the basement of all unused stuff is...not possible.
3) I still want to create as many good memories for Wynn as possible.
Among the many nice things I've realized about living longer than expected is that I don't have the crazy overwhelming sense of urgency like I had a year ago. I know that I have more time with my children so that teaching them about being good human beings can come about by setting an example, through long serial conversations, and by walking at their sides, as we all pass through life. Oh...and poor Wynn...since there is no longer that sense of urgency, I no longer have to keep the disagreements to a minimum.