Don’t Stop Too Soon

It’s been almost a year since I lost my friend to cancer. As we near that sad anniversary I’ve been thinking about how she handled her diagnosis.

Beth was an amazing woman. She touched people wherever she went. She was upset by her diagnosis. She was frightened. She was angry. She was sad. She was hopeful. She went through all of those emotions any of us would. What she didn’t do was stop.

I know far too many people who simply stop. They get bad or scary news and they just stop. Sometimes they stop even when the eventual outcome is good.

I routinely get abnormal results from various medical tests. It’s not unusual for me to have to endure second or third runs of tests. When those initial tests come back abnormal, I know there’s a possibility that this one is the one. This is the test for which the double-check will say that something is wrong. I always know that’s a possibility. I’m old enough to know what could happen in that case. It’s not pretty.

I’ve met people who have the same strange issues with tests that I experience. I’m shocked at the number of them who have decided that this means they will die soon, so there’s no use in getting excited about life. There’s no reason to look forward. Even when that second look proves them to be fine, they just know that next time it will be bad news.

My husband’s grandfather was this way. I never saw him out of his pajamas. He had had heart surgery years before I married The Furry Guy. He just knew this meant he was going to die soon, so he took to his bed. I don’t know for sure how long it was from the time of his surgery to the time of his death, but I knew him for the last five years of his life. Five years. Every time we saw him he would tell us it would probably be the last time. He stopped too soon.

I know people who turn 30, 40, or 50 and decide that they are now old and allow their lives to become smaller and smaller. They stop too soon.

I know other people who are brimming with life. They are living with a bad diagnosis hanging over thier heads, but they are living. I know people in their 90s who are making plans and looking forward. They’re trying new things, allowing their worlds to expand, to grow. That’s how I want to be.

When Beth received her diagnosis she made certain plans and arrangements just in case. That makes sense. But, she took each day as it came. As her energy waned she was more cautious, using the words, “If I feel up to it . . .” Don’t get me wrong. There came a time when she could no longer make plans. There came a time to stop. What I’m saying is that she waited until she had to stop. She didn’t stop too soon.

I’ve made a few plans and arrangements myself. I’m not awaiting any test results. I’m only 47 years old. I’m not worried about anything. I just know we aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. My family knows where to find my final wishes, should they need them. However, I will not stop reaching for new experiences. I will not stop looking forward. I will not stop before I have no more choice.

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