I’m taught lessons on a frequent basis in my job, both through my coworkers and through my patients. I’m not referring to teachings on medical care but life lessons. Perspective changing lessons. I am consistently amazed how easy it is in our world to lose focus of what’s important and to create and sustain falsehoods in our lives. So unbelievably easy.
I sat with a patient today, Patient X, who had surgery earlier in the afternoon. I was checking on her to see how she was feeling post-operatively. I’m not sure if it was the anesthesia, a genuine level of openness, or my innate ability to get people to trust me (true story), but she divulged an awful lot after my general inquiry of, “How are you feeling?” When she started to speak and I sensed that she needed to talk, I sat down on a footstool and listened.
Though she was only in her late 40’s, her bone metastasis was causing her pain, even more pain than her recent incision. She regaled her medical history, how she developed colon cancer and failed several chemotherapy regimens and was now on “light chemotherapy” for lack of a better description. Patient X told me about her multiple lung metastases and surgeries. She had been trying to get on a trial but wasn’t sure if that was the best plan for her as she currently “felt okay.” Why get on a new medication that had the potential of making her feel terrible?
Working with cancer patients has shaped my life viewpoint. One of the biggest myths of this world is that we have tomorrow. Each day, each moment we rest assured that we will work, socialize, rest, sleep, and repeat. We live under a false sense of security that we are guaranteed each day when really we are not even guaranteed the rest of this one. You and I are not promised even the next hour. Everything can change in a moment. Everything.
Terminal cancer patients know this already. They face their impending mortality with each sunrise. I cannot imagine waking up each morning with that thought, however, whose life view is more accurate? My fabricated sanctuary built on the premise that life as I know it will continue indefinitely? Or Patient X’s view of her own mortality and the importance of her quality of life?
Each moment needs to count. Every instant is one that I can use to better my “quality of life” and to fulfill my purpose. How am I spending that currency? Am I a good steward of my life? Does the way I live and the quality of my life reflect the truth that I may not have any more days after this one? Am I wasting them?
Today is the day that we have. Today is the only day that we have. Today is it. Grab it with both hands. Make it count.