Living with Cancer – A Sense of Balance
Anonymous – Cancer Survivor
Smith – Author of The Circle
Welcome to Age to Age. I’m Sally
Smith. Let’s talk. We have with us, today, my friend, who wishes
to be called my friend. She has given us
the great gift of sharing her insights learned over several years of dealing
with cancer and then another cancer. She
talks about strategies for having this be a learning time, a spiritual time, a
time of moving toward, as she put it, paradise and wonderful thoughts on
attitudes that can help us all in our many trials and tribulations along the
One thing that continues to strike me is your
wonderful sense of balance. Having known
you for awhile, I’ve been with you when we’ve laughed and had so much fun. You go and see friends. You also have doctor appointments. You also, yesterday, had chemo. You’re married. You have children. You have a house. How do you balance in an already overwhelming
world, seeing your days through the lens of living with cancer and its demands
on you? Do you find that you balance
your days in a way you wouldn’t have done, say, 10 years ago?
allowed more time to be lazy, therefore I’m taking full advantage of if I’m
tired, I lie down, I read my book, or I sit down and paint or draw. I allow myself to do what I really feel like
doing, because I’m lucky enough to have a husband who’s doing the grocery
shopping. But I’m very flattered that
you consider that my life looks balanced because it’s full of upheavals, like
everybody else’s. The only thing
different is my attitude towards getting frantic about tidying the living room
if friends are coming.
I’ve instituted tea time and that, socially, has
helped me tremendously because everybody knows that at 5:00 we have tea. Therefore, I can balance what I used to do
before, which was lunching and meetings.
I now have time to see my friends, very often just two of us but
sometimes there are three of four of us, at a determined time during the day
and that, I find, has me helped me a tremendous amount.
That’s a wonderful idea. I knew
that you did that at 5:00 each day, and people know you’re available. That way you don’t have to organize or get
out the door or get a ride.
add a cup.
You’ve said this word, awareness. I’ve had a very small thing or two along the
way that has brought me up short and usually the end result has been an
increased awareness about what, really, is important, and what isn’t. Have you found that to be true for you?
Guest: If the
teapot is not polished or the tray is looking ragged, let it go, because people
do not notice. You’re always told that
people don’t notice but, in point of fact, if there interested enough to come
and talk to you and be with you and help you along your road, they’re not
noticing whether or not the silver is polished.
You told me one time, some months ago, the most interesting thing about
how there were friends that you had and you didn’t really realize what a friend
they were until you began to look at them through a new lens of awareness. You know, it’s just such a lesson in a way we
all should live. It’s like some movie I
heard about recently where you get one more day. You know, we should all live like we get one
when you’re living that, I remember thinking what a good idea, to live one more
day, and it’s the Christian thing to do, but you don’t want to think about one more day, so you don’t. You think of months to come. We’re planning our trip in May while
pretending that we have any amount of days.
In that sense, I think it gives my family more courage. So, I try and push myself to think in the
future and not remind myself of the limits of my future.
Do you find that exhausting?
not really, not really.
Because you are being brave for a lot of people.
but that’s other people. I’m not feeling
brave for myself. I have my queasy
moments. I think that the important
thing is to keep the strength to keep moving, to keep, I want to say, as
healthy as you can. I find, in that
sense, I’ve been able to juggle that around so that I could keep my optimism,
and I’ve allowed myself to eat all the ice cream I want.
And cherries right off your tree in Normandy!
Absolutely! Before I was worrying
about it and now they weigh me and my weight goes up and down, up and
down. It doesn’t really matter. I like ice cream, so I’m giving myself a
whole lot of little treats like that.
Well, I think that’s wonderful. I
love the word you use, mindset. I’m wondering, when you wake up in the
morning and it kind of comes to you, oh, this is the situation, do you have any
little ways you get your mind set, is that when you have some of your spiritual
centering, or kind of getting your mind together?
No. I have a tendency to keep my
centering, quiet, moments for the evenings.
It can be in the bath, a hot bath, or sitting in my chair where I like
to meditate. The morning has to be more
revved up than that. The strength that
you have, and my doctor corroborated this, is in the morning, so make your
mornings meaningful. Do the chores that
you have to do and, also, the things you love to do, and then spend the
afternoon reading and napping, having quiet time.
You said something earlier about optimism. You have chosen to be optimistic. I’m sure you’ve had, as you say, queasy
moments or down moments, but you’ve chosen to look at the beautiful bright
side. Of course everything has a dark
side and a hard side, and everything has a beautiful side, all of life. There’s birth and death and good and bad,
laughter, sadness. There are just so
many components in everybody’s life all the time.
I think one thing you said that I have to touch on
is the amazing pivotal quality of having somebody, like your daughter, close
by, having family around. As you and I
were saying, just normally, anyone with a lot of scheduling and things as they
get older, there are so many details.
It’s so wonderful that you’ve been able to be surrounded by these strong
Absolutely, particularly blessed.
And a very helpful husband!
Would you say one of the big awarenesses is the awareness of the great
good fortune of relationships and family?
yes. And, as you say, very truly, we all
have rough moments. But let’s not dwell
on the rough ones. Let’s just be hopeful
and live the beautiful ones. And there
are beautiful ones every five minutes, if you really look for them.
That’s it, if you really look for ‘em.
I’m gonna hold that thought. I
wish you would finish this little moment with us by reading a poem that,
really, was just amazing. You have been
writing poetry and psalms and have this wonderful creative streak. This is a poem that you read that I thought
was particularly special.
was inspired by a psalm that says: Let us go rejoice into the house of the
The house of the Lord is my house. From faraway my excitement rises. I’m coming home. Who awaits me there? The comfort and joy of my family that greets
me. God stays in the background. He patiently awaits my recognition. He welcomes me with blessed affection and I
joyfully sing his praise, for he receives into his house and to be in his arms
would be like all the arms that have held me since childhood. I rejoice that the Lord is my family. His house is my home.
Beautiful words. Thank you so
much. Thank all of our listeners too for
joining us. We welcome your suggestions
and comments. What a light we have had
today with my dear friend here, lessons for us all to learn at any stage in our
live. This is Sally Smith saying,
goodbye from Age to Age and wishing you courage and joy on your own
journey. We are all connected.
you enjoy listening to Sally Smith, you can buy her book, The Circle. It’s the story of how she personally
responded to her mother’s journey with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a wonderful gift of hope for anyone with
a parent who has dementia. Just click on
‘Sally Smith’ under the health professional’s tab on the podcasts
homepage. All profits support research
at the Center on Aging.