Living with Cancer – A Sense of Balance

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Living with Cancer – A Sense of Balance




Guest:  Anonymous – Cancer Survivor

Host:  Sally Smith – Author of The Circle


Sally Smith:  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 way. 


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?


Guest:  I’m 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.


Sally Smith:  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. 


Guest:  Just add a cup.


Sally Smith:  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. 


Sally Smith:  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 more day.


Guest:  But 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.


Sally Smith:  Do you find that exhausting?


Guest:  No, not really, not really.


Sally Smith:  Because you are being brave for a lot of people.


Guest:  Yes, 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. 


Sally Smith:  And cherries right off your tree in Normandy!


Guest:  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. 


Sally Smith:  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?


Guest:  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.


Sally Smith:  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 relationships.


Guest:  Absolutely, particularly blessed.  And a very helpful husband! 


Sally Smith:  Would you say one of the big awarenesses is the awareness of the great good fortune of relationships and family?


Guest:  Yes, 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. 


Sally Smith:  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.


Guest:  This was inspired by a psalm that says:  Let us go rejoice into the house of the Lord.


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.


Sally Smith:  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.


If 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.

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