Just recently I got some serious news. The kind of news that can alter your life in many ways. My dad, who I considered one of the strongest and healthiest people I know had been diagnosed with stage 4 Renal cell carcinoma.
WHAT? How is this possible? My dad..teacher…coach…pioneer and all around do it all guy has cancer? Dad was never over weight, never had a serious illness, no heart problems except for a bit of high blood pressure in his later years. He ran eleven marathons in his lifetime, cycled thousands of miles on his road bike, built a cabin on an island from scratch. He water-skied in the summer, walked everyday, traveled, retired early, spent time with his grandchildren. One of his favorite sayings was Carpe Diem. Still, how is this possible? He wasn’t unhealthy.
Before this, I touted that eating well, staying fit, keeping your mind and your body healthy was the way to a long and happy life. I seriously had to reconsider my theory here. If my dad can get cancer, anyone can.
As things go when you get this kind of news, you first try to find out how. My sister and I started wondering, how did dad get cancer? They lived in an old house, was radon an issue? What about toxins, were my parents exposed to something in their earlier years? What about all those hotdogs dad likes to eat with the yellow mustard? Was it the nitrates? How about that old green shag carpet that lived in my parents house forever until they remodeled? Maybe that was housing some kind of super bad bug? The more we talked, the more outrageous our theories got.
Does it matter though? We can’t go back and take away the thing or the reason because we are here now grieving over a lost life. We can only go forward.
I got quite deflated. No matter what we do, we can still get sick. We can suffer some hard disease be it cancer, ALS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and the host of other illnesses that do not have a cure.
Then one day as I am relaying this story to a long time client who is in the medical field, she says to me, “It’s not what happens at the end but how you are living your life while you are here.” And with this simple comment, I was shaken out of my depressed daze.
YES! She is right. It’s every day making a choice to be healthy in mind and body so we can live fully in each day and in each moment being the best we are. That is exactly how my dad lived.
The older we get, the more important it is to do this. We are all walking into every day with a choice to be good to ourselves and the others around us. We cannot predict tomorrow nor can we keep ourselves free from everything that could possibly make us sick or injure our body. We can’t fret constantly about every possible danger. I think we sometimes have too much information. I am reminded of an old Joe Jackson song in the 80s called “Cancer” and as he said, “Everything gives you cancer.” Anything and everything has the potential to either heal or harm.
So I’d like to take a moment here and say that my dad lived every day with gusto. He lived one adventure after another. He was always generous with his time and enjoyed life fully. I hoped he would still get a chance to keep doing that, but he did it up till the end and that is what is important.
It’s about how we live. How are you living? Are you taking care of your mind and your body? Are you spending time with those you love? Do you try new things? Do you laugh a lot? Do you run just for fun? Do you mediate? Do you draw or paint? Do you take a regular exercise class because it makes you feel good not because you have to? Do you cook for yourself? Do you dance in your house when no one is watching?
All of these things matter. Living fully matters. Anything that is good for the mind is also good for the body and vice versa. It’s important to find those things for yourself. Everyone is different and as we get older those things will change. My dad went from teacher, coach, marathoner, to super grandpa and traveler. He was always looking for new experiences that would improve his life.
This story isn’t over. We don’t know how it will end, so let’s play the game of life fully because we never know how or when it will change or end.