Five Years to Live

I was online researching the survival rate for a family member’s cancer (I do not recommend going to this scary place, btw.) The five-year survival rate for her type of cancer is 8%. Eight percent. This is rattling around in my brain as I try to grasp that this fairly young woman has an 8% chance of surviving until her kids all graduate high school. In her pictures she looks pale, thin, almost gaunt.

It’s got me thinking. First, I went and scheduled that mammogram I’ve been putting off. But now, I’m thinking about how I would want to spend my time if I were to have such a diagnosis.

Some of the things that pop into my head are silly and some are not. I want to use Grandma’s china every day. I want to finish my degree. I want to go to Tierra del Fuego and to Patagonia. I want to go to Africa. I want to see my kids, my grandkids and to be with friends.

But more than that, I would want to make sure that I get to serve meals to the homeless, to help the less fortunate, to pray more, to serve more. I would write letters to those I love thanking them and telling them what they mean to me. I would refuse to watch any tv show that isn’t wonderful, or to finish any book that isn’t well-written and a story worth reading. I would want to finish my stories and publish them so my friends and family could read what’s been in my heart and on my mind.

And so…this has me thinking. Why wait? Why not live as if I have that death sentence? Because in truth, I do have a death sentence. I just don’t know when the date of my death will occur.

So starting today, I want to live a life of beauty, of love and of self-sacrifice (not easy, for I am a supremely selfish person.) Grandma’s china is coming out of the cupboard, even though it has to be hand-washed. I am going to continue purging my house and my life of the unnecessary, the ugly, the too-broken to fix. I’m going to fix grandma’s rocking chair. It’s beautiful and I love it.

I’m going to put my life in order, so that when that day happens, no one has to search for those insurance records, those retirement accounts, etc. And I’m going to start inviting people to my apartment for coffee. Just because. Because I have a death sentence. And I need to make sure my life counts for something and that I embrace beauty and love.

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