Contrary to popular belief — if what you are posting on Facebook and Twitter are to be believed — you are not going to start living every day like it’s your last. You are not going to take the tragic and way-too-soon death of Apple founder Steve Jobs from pancreatic cancer as a sign that compels you to hug your children more and let go of the little stuff, like guilt over chronically unmade beds or those last five pounds.
You are not going to leave your job to go to work for Habitat for Humanity.
You are not going to compete in a triathlon or quit sugar.
You are not going find God, renew your marriage vows or invent the next world-changing technology in your garage on weekends.
You are going to be sad, indeed, and you will probably take a closer look at your mortality. But chances are, you will turn on your iPod and be wistful today. You will read Steve Jobs’ obituaries, and post that ubiquitous artwork of his silhouette inside the Apple logo on your Facebook page. You will explain to the kids what life was like before the iPad, the iPhone and all things “i.” You will fondly remember your first computer, and perhaps tell a story about how you once stood in a line that snaked out of the Apple Store — in the rain, of course.
But you won’t live each day like it’s your last because you can’t. If you did, nothing would ever get done around your place, your bank account would quickly drain and your kids would wonder why you’re squeezing them so tightly and sobbing.
You can’t dramatically change the way you look at life until you’ve almost lost it. It’s that simple. That kind of transformation requires more than a little introspection over a famous person you never really knew while you’re at the water cooler at work or along the sidelines at your kid’s soccer game.
Steve Jobs lost his life to cancer at too young an age. Just like my neighbor Mitch. Like my cousin’s best friend Lamby. Like all of my hospital roommates from the oncology floor. Like my kid’s middle school classmate, Nicole.
And that makes me sad and mad and worried that it could have been me four years ago, when I had cancer, too. It doesn’t make me wonder what I’d do if I knew I didn’t have much time left to live, because I know what I’d do: I’d fight for my life. And I’d pray to God that I’d get to see my kids grow up. I know what I’d do, because I’ve done it.
Yet it has taken me four years — so far — to really do the hard work of figuring out what it meant to arrive at two months from death. It’s taken hard decisions and scary close-calls to recurrence and falling back into the same old thinking, over and over until I slap myself upside the head and start over again. It’s taken therapy and thinking, but most of all, it’s taken living.
And I haven’t quit my job to work for Habitat for Humanity.
I haven’t run a triathlon or quit sugar.
I haven’t drained my bank account or squeezed my kids while sobbing uncontrollably, because that would alarm them into thinking Mom has cancer again. And they really just need to get their homework done before soccer practice or their piano lesson.
So please, don’t tell me you’re going to live any differently because cancer has struck one of us yet again — this time, someone who changed the world. When cancer strikes you, however, promise me that you’ll live each day like you have many, many more of them ahead.
For more stuff like this, visit ParentingWithCancer.com.