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How Does One Plan? 🙀

Constructing a life after your second bout with cancer.

Last Wednesday I ate two cupcakes, which was exactly two more than I needed. I try not to congratulate myself with treats but after a good checkup with my oncologist I was all about throwing caution to the wind.

It wasn’t a perfect check-up, mind you. My new cancer was tiny, but more aggressive than the last. It appears they got it all. That’s a conditional statement of course, there is no way to know if one cell slipped into my bloodstream to wreak havoc down the road. I’ll be checked every six months to see if anything new materializes, which means from here on out my life will be lived in six month reprieves. I have five months to go on this one.

I’m grateful for good health insurance, without which I would be in palliative care right now. Instead, I am taking long walks, getting out my bikini and pouring over road maps for my next adventure. I feel great, and am not inclined to ruminate over scary scars and the like. My nearly forty-seven year old body will have to do as-is.

One issue persist, though. Each time I deal with some aspect of my cancer I go back to the question I dealt with with the first diagnosis. How does one plan for the possibility of a life interrupted?

I love to daydream about selling all my things and roam about unencumbered. Or maybe buy a villa in Sardinia? Climb Machu Picchu and never look back? On the other hand I just might make it to old age, then I’d be super sorry I didn’t put money in my IRA and keep my Eames chair.

I can, and have, driven myself bonkers with these questions. What I’ve come up with is a series of ideas that I can live with. I have a life I enjoy right now, work that is meaningful to me, and important relationships I’ve cultivated over time. Throwing all that overboard seems foolish.

I love the routine of my day to day and relish in the freedom it provides me to think, write, drink coffee and explore my immediate world. I am paring down my possessions significantly over these next few months. Taking care of things is not a valuable way to spend my life.

I will likely sell my enormous, costly, and time consuming old home. It’s a beauty that needs a new steward. In the meantime I am planning for one that offers both one level living should I get sick again, plus a garage for my camper and sports equipment. It’s a strange and pragmatic list of criteria.

Adventure and comfort. I’m not done with either.

I’ll be back in my camper come May. This time my sweet daughter will explore the first leg of the trip with me. I’ll be marveling at stars, riding my bike, hiking, and all the while telling her my secrets. New Mexico or 💥 .

I believe being in nature is salutatory. During painful procedures I closed my eyes and imagined the feeling of swimming in an ocean. The cool water enveloping my skin, the effort of my body to stay afloat, the sun on my face. It’s our essential selves that return to nature during times of crisis.

“But one of the surprises that life has held for me is that I am happier as an old woman than I ever was as a young one. Perhaps the reason for this is that I realized now it does not matter whether we arrive. The joy is in the going.

We all have an abbreviated life, that’s the rub of living. I don’t know my end anymore than you do. I do know that our lives matter in the here and now, sleep walking through them ought not be an option. One painful diagnosis, accident, or mistake is all it takes to understand what that wasted time really meant.

Eat the cupcakes, don’t eat the cupcakes? I’m not so sure. I’ll probably err on the side of fewer cupcakes, but also less agonizing over the daily choices.

I have five months of pain-free living to go and if I’m lucky, many more.