There is a song I have heard on the radio several times and prior to this essay had never really given it much thought. This song is by one of my favorite Country Artists, Tim McGraw. The title of the song is “Live like You Were Dying” and it is about a man who was given a diagnosis of cancer and lived to tell about it. This man was asked by another man what he did when he found out that he may actually not survive. What he had to say back to this man is so poignant to me thinking about what I would do if given the same diagnosis. He says, “I went sky diving, I went rocky mountain climbing, I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu. And I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter, and I gave forgiveness I’d been denying. Some day, I hope you get the chance, to live like you were dying.” This same man looks back on other aspects of his life as well and goes on to reflect about these moments and says to the man he is talking to, “I was finally the husband, that most the time I wasn’t, and I became a friend a friend would like to have. And all of a sudden going fishing wasn’t such an imposition. And I went three times that year I lost my Dad. Well, I finally read the Good Book, and I took a good long hard look, at what I’d do if I could do it all again.” This song seems to envoelope the way the Mr. O’Connor lived his life after being diagnosed with mesothelioma. I found that reading some of the stories on www.survivingmesothelioma.com was very inspiring in that these people were not dying from this disease, but rather were living with it, and conquering it.
As a single mother of four beautiful children, every day for me is precious and blessed. If tomorrow I went to the doctor’s office and was given a diagnosis of stage four breast cancer, and told that I had months to live, I guarantee you one thing, those months would not be spent sitting in a pool of self pity and misery. Every minute of every day would be spent living my life to the absolute fullest. I would take initiative into my own hands and start learning everything I could about my disease. I would take nothing for granted. No stone would go unturned in my search for ways to grant me even one extra minute with my children and other loved ones in my life.
The use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) is one option that is available to individuals who are given a cancer diagnosis. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine. Complimentary medicine is a course of treatment options that are used in addition to conventional medicine treatment plans, where alternative medicine, as suggested by its name, are used as an alternative to conventional medicine. While there are skeptics out there who do not believe that these are viable options to someone facing a terminal illness such as cancer, several surveys have been conducted to show that there is promise in these methods. One study published in the February 2000 issue of the journal Cancer reported that 37 percent of 46 patients with prostate cancer used one or more therapies as part of their cancer treatment. These therapies included herbal remedies, vitamins, and special diets (National Cancer Institute, 2006). A larger study of CAM use in patients with different types of cancer was published in the July 2000 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology. This study found that 69 percent of 453 cancer patients had used at least one CAM therapy as part of their cancer treatment. Additional information about CAM use among cancer patients can be found in a review article published in Seminars in Oncology in December 2002 (National Cancer Institute, 2006).
There are no lengths to which I would not go to gain even as little as one more day or hour with those who mean the most to me. I would live my life as an example to my children that every single minute of every day is precious and should be cherished. Arguing and bickering is wasted energy. I would teach them to value the aspects of life that are truly important. Family, love, honesty, integrity, and courage are the qualities I would want to leave behind for my children to see. I would also want to show them how hard I fought to be here with them, but would also make sure that even if I had to leave this Earth that they would be prepared to see me go.
I would make sure that through my experiences at least one other cancer patient may benefit from research that I had participated in. Even if my own life could not be saved, I would fight the battle so that someone else’s life might be. Life is too short to go through it not appreciating all the beauty and possibilities that surround us every day. These are the legacies I would want to leave. These are the lessons I would want to teach. That is the approach I would take if I were told tomorrow that I had a limited time left to live.