I want to talk this month about time. I may have written about this previously, but I feel its worth repeating as it may help others as they struggle with time management and making time to spend with loved ones.
Cancer diagnosis or not, making time for our loved ones is so important and time is a precious commodity that we never seem to have enough of.
When I was first diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer I googled prognosis statistics on the internet and found out that I had a 50/50 chance of being alive at 5 years post diagnosis and to survive ten years the American Cancer Society gave me a 17% chance. I realize that I am a statistic of ONE. However, reading numbers like that immediately set up a reverse clock in my head.
This is how my reverse clock works:
When I reached the first “Cancerversary” our family celebrated the milestone and we were grateful. I had a special yoga class at my home studio Yoga Branch in Vista to thank my yoga family for their support during the first year of surgery and treatment and we had a fundraiser for ovarian cancer and Be Well. It was an amazing evening.
In my mind, my reverse clock was ticking down and a little voice said, “4 years to go, so get busy living!”
I realize that my reverse clock may seem a bit morbid to some of you. We all cope in different ways while living with cancer. My reverse clock has helped me to not postpone my life. My reverse clock has helped me to prioritize what is really important to me and to move forward with making important “dates” with my husband and kids.
It started with lunch dates during the week with my daughter and sons where I would drive to them and fit into their work and school schedules to have one on one conversations.
When my youngest son moved to Arizona in 2015 for college I was so proud of him and immensely sad at the same time. Would I be alive to see him graduate?
When my daughter got pregnant in 2016 I was thrilled about our first grandson while feeling deep sorrow at the thought of not seeing him grow up. I wondered if I would live long enough for him to have memories of me. By this time, the cancer had recurred and was deemed terminal so these ambivalent thoughts and the incessant ticking of the reverse clock rang loudly in my ears.
In the summer of 2016 I had a second major cancer removal surgery and more chemotherapy. I felt the clock ticking relentlessly in my soul.
After recovering from surgery I did a crazy thing... I went on a solo trip to London for a week in September 2017. It was now Year 3 since diagnosis and two years left on my reverse clock. London served the purpose of fulfilling a lifelong goal of mine to travel solo AND it was a wake up call to my family that I was not going to wait around for them and we seriously had to acknowledge that I was living on dwindling time.
So we increased our efforts to make special arrangements together as a family. In 2017 myself, my husband and two of our sons were able to spend time in Italy and those are memories we will cherish.
The surgeries, chemo side effects and damage, and the lymphedema in my right leg made me acutely aware that now was the time to travel as much and as often as I can. My body has taken several beatings and it is getting more difficult to retain energy and strength.
Soon after, in early Spring of 2018, I travelled with my middle son to Portland for a one on one trip. Those moments were so special and we had some wonderful conversations together.
My youngest son came home from college in Arizona and I was able to get some time with him (I am finding that it is never enough time together!)
Since November of 2017 my tumor marker blood tests had started to rise again monthly so in March of 2018 I had a scan and it came back positive for tumor activity in two lymph nodes. This cancer is aggressive and it was on the move again. The plan was to continue oral chemotherapy and rescan in three months. That damn reverse clock was deafening in my mind!
I spoke with my oldest son about the situation and the seemingly relentless nature of this cancer and two things happened.
We decided as a family that he and his girlfriend would move home so that they could save money for a house and so that he could spend more time with me. He hadn’t lived at home in nine years. The second thing that happened was that he and I decided to take a trip together to England and Scotland. We just returned from that magical road trip and the memories we made were priceless.
As I write the blog this evening, I am facing a second recurrence of ovarian cancer. This will be my third bout in less than four years. The scan I had upon returning from Scotland showed four more active areas of cancer in my lymph nodes. Now it has spread up to my neck area, down to my kidney area and in my abdomen and pelvis. I am devastated. I dont want to endure more surgery and treatments. The reverse clock continues to tick tick tick.
So, this weekend we are off to San Diego to enjoy family time together celebrating my daughters birthday and to take our grandson to the zoo for his very first visit! I will get a surgical biopsy to confirm malignancy on July 13th and my youngest son will travel home from Arizona in August to see me and share some precious time.
I tend to worry about the future at night after the house has become quiet. I sit up in bed on my iPad planning my next trip to distract myself from the ticking of the clock. In September it will be 4 years since diagnosis and I am planning a trip with my dear husband, my lover and partner to visit Ireland and possibly Norway or Spain this trip. It’s our turn to share one on one time. I know that even as my luck with this cancer doesn’t seem to be going my way, I am lucky to be able to travel and its the travel planning that is keeping me sane sometimes. It’s the hope for the future of more trips and more quality time with my family that keeps me going.
Whether its spending time visiting with them for lunch during their workdays, time spent playing with my grandson on the floor of my daughters kitchen, time on phone calls to Arizona, time cooking dinner together with my middle son after a beach walk, time watching a good movie on the couch, time running errands on the weekend with my husband, or time visiting other countries and towns....its all about the time we carve out for each other.
I realize that travel is a luxury and I am so grateful to be able to experience these trips while my health permits. I pray that I continue to be able to travel long after my reverse clock stops ticking. You see, I plan to beat this clock. Stretch time out as far as I can. I’m not sure how many years I have left and really....none of us do.
Tick tick tick...
If time has been going to fast for you lately please listen to me when I say:
Make the time for what is important. No excuses. Just do it.