Time is Precious

I realized early in the cancer journeys with my mother, Maxine, and wife, Alyson, that time is precious and finite. Our time on this earth is fleeting, often said to go by at the “blink of an eye.”

These experiences caused me to reassess the value that I placed on time and what I really considered to be my priorities in life.

I was never one that felt the need to define my being with material things. I would never say something like “I live in a $450,000 house (which I don’t). Instead, I’d be more likely to say, “I live in a house that is warm and welcoming, and friends say feels comfortable to them.” One of my go-to sayings that I think captures this sentiment best is: “I want all my belongings to be able to fit in the back of my Ford pick-up truck.”

A new measure of happiness … time

But as I went through my cancer journeys, my priorities shifted. It was no longer about how much (or how little) stuff I had. Or how well liked I was. In this new world order, I found a different type of personal happiness and fulfillment; one that involves family and friends that have a similar appreciation of time and friendship. These relationships are very special because the people are authentic, comfortable in their own skin and “givers” (see prior blog post: A giver has got to know his/her limitations).

Now, I also try to focus on investing my time in activities that give me a real sense of joy and accomplishment. I seldom find myself in situations that are uncomfortable or “just not my deal.” Now that I understand just precious time is, I have learned that the word “no” is not a bad word. In fact, it often leads to a more enjoyable experience for all parties because each participant is committed and all-in.

And that led me to write the following poem. Have these questions in mind as you read it:
“How would your life and decisions change if you knew the end was near? Would you play it safe or take a risk and venture outside of your comfort zone?”

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Time is Precious…

How would your life change if you had but one year?
How would the news impact your hopes, dreams, and fears?

Would you invest more time in your current profession?
Or feel the need for greater purpose and expression?

Would you settle on a relationship long since grown stale?
Or seek a special bond you know will prevail?

Would you surround yourself with loyal friends from the past?
Or spend time with new acquaintances unlikely to last?

Time waits for no one and only you hold the key.
To unlock the door and set yourself free.

So live each day as if you had but a few.
And savor every moment like you are starting anew.

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Remember. Time is precious. Live every day to its fullest.

5 Stages of Grief in the Cancer Journey

When you get that cancer diagnosis, it’s usually the start of the “ stages of grief ” cycle for many people. It’s not full loss — in terms of a death or permanent loss — but it’s still grief. It’s helpful, I think, to understand the five stages of grief to help you through your cancer battle. These can be helpful both to patients, but also to loved ones who are walking alongside on the journey.

In my research, I learned more about these 5 stages of grief.

Stage 1: Denial & Isolation

Often when we get bad news, we simply want to hole up and not see anyone. We can be in a mode of simply wanting to ignore the problem. When it comes to cancer, sometimes we don’t have the luxury of ignoring things and we must act fast. Either way, we may find ourselves wanting to isolate and separate ourselves from other loved ones.

Stage 2: Anger

At some point, as we go through grief, we get to a point of feeling angry. We have a low patience level for things and can get upset over anything – cancer-related or not. Anger may come out to any number of people, from family to the doctors, to God, to even the unsuspecting cashier at the store.

Stage 3: Bargaining

As anger wears off, we start trying to take control back and often that comes in the form of “if only” statements. We might say things like “if only we knew sooner,” or “if only we could get another opinion.” We start to bargain and evaluate the situation.

Stage 4: Depression

Depression can come in terms of emotions related to practical needs, but it can also come out and show itself in a deeper, more quiet expression. Depression can be hard, but I think it’s the most expected emotion we expect ourselves to feel and what we expect out of others. It’s becoming more and more accepted to feel depression and it’s not a shameful emotion to walk through. When we realize, though, that our depression is lingering longer than just a season, we need to get help.

Stage 5: Acceptance

Reaching the point of acceptance can be a true gift. We have more clarity about our situation at this stage and have a lot of power as a result. We can truly fight our cancer fight with everything we’ve got.

Giving the Stages of Grief a Voice

The more I dug into this topic, the more questions came up. Is any one stage of grief wrong to be in? How long does the cycle take? Can the order shake up?

Since I’m not a licensed counselor or therapist, I know that others can answer this question better than I can. What I do know is that by voicing these stages of grief, we are given the freedom to walk through our battle with grace, knowing that it truly is a journey.

We sometimes have to walk through some hard seasons. Just know that there are others walking through the grief cycle in all walks of life and in all kinds of grief. Let’s walk together.

Looking for Direction? Follow the Signs.

Are you at a crossroads in life? Maybe you’re considering a move or a personal or professional change. Perhaps a major change has been thrust upon you such as the loss of a loved one or a recent health diagnosis. Regardless of the life challenge, choosing the right path going forward is not always crystal clear. If you’re looking for direction, my advice to you is this: follow the signs.

The signs I’m referring to can’t be found using Google Maps. These are signs that come to you in the form of feelings, dreams, nature, or in everyday life activities. Some people rely on an internal instinct, often referred to as a “gut feel” to make big decisions. Others are tuned into their dreams and can literally see the future play itself out like a movie in their subconscious at night. Still others may see something in nature that stops them in their tracks — like a rainbow, cardinal, or hawk in an uncharacteristic setting. Lastly, individuals may hear a certain song on the radio, a message while reading a book, watching a TV show, or movie and feel like a message is being sent directly to them. However it may come to you, follow the signs.

My “Follow the Signs” Story: A Story of Dimes

I had a special sign that came to me following my mother, Max’s, passing. My mom and I were very close and I was really struggling with the loss. On the day of her memorial service, I noticed a single shiny dime on our dining room carpet. Soon thereafter, I began to come across single dimes in my daily travels. I’d find a dime in my pants or jacket pocket, in my car on the driver-side floor mat, in the dryer, on the ground at the gas pump, etc. I was talking to a close friend about this experience and they sent me the following saying: “When you find a dime, stop and pick it up. A found dime is a sign from heaven that a loved one is thinking of you. It shows that you are on the right path in life and someone is always looking out for you.”

If you’re thinking maybe this guy was smoking something, there is more to this story. Fast forward two years and we are getting Max’s house ready for sale. In her attic, we found a box marked “Christmas items,” and in it were two Christmas card books of dimes. The one card cover read “Here’s A Sockful Of Dimes For A Fine Grandson,” given to me by Nan & Pap Evans ( Max’s parents) on my first Christmas. The other card cover read “Some Christmas Dimes For You” and was given to me by my mom and dad around the same time. I felt these cards were the missing piece to why I was finding single dimes everywhere and knowing this brought me a real sense of calm and inner peace. Now I know that when I find a dime, I have three special angels that are looking out for me.


Searching For Your Own Dimes

If you pay attention to unique occurrences that arise in your daily life, you may also find a gift or message that you are seeking. And when they arise, I urge you to follow the signs. The following little piece reinforces the notion and I hope it speaks to you:

Searching

 Searching for answers, nowhere to be found.

You know it doesn’t hurt sometimes, to stop and look around.

For those answers that we search, seem difficult to find,

But oftentimes those answers, lie way down deep inside.

In our hearts and in our minds, where the questions first arose

And the seeds of doubt were planted, complicating life’s winding road.

So why keep on searching; think back to where it all began.

Then you’ll come to the realization, that the answers were at hand.

Yours truly,
Frank

Why Blog?

Up to this point I have resisted suggestions to “start blogging,” but now the timing feels right to me. For those of you that read my book Know Your Enemy, you may recall that I stated early on I never intended to write a book, let alone a cancer book. I believe this book was written through me and I was merely the conduit to get a message of hope and can-do spirit to first-time cancer patients and caregivers.

I plan on using the same approach for this blog; that is to let thoughts and topics flow through me and post them to the blogosphere. I intend to write about subjects that are universal in nature. I want the message to be positive, motivational, authentic, and hopefully inspirational. I will also follow the simple rule of leaving subjects of politics and religion at the doorstep.

The writing style for this blog will be conversational. I want readers to feel like they are sitting around the kitchen table or breakfast bar with a group of friends discussing topics of the day. Since I relate best to the world through music, specifically song lyrics, humorous stories and famous quotes or sayings, I will use these forms to present the content found in this blog.

I began appreciating these forms of writing when I realized how inspirational such forms could be for people. Often times, some words of encouragement or a little act of kindness can be all that it takes to get a person back on track. For me, I had this epiphany 30 years ago and it is when I wrote one of my first poems. The poem was written for an IBM colleague and friend from the Windy City who was going through a difficult time. I wanted to write a little pick-me-up piece to lift her spirits and penned the following poem. I’ve always liked the message of persistence and perseverance that it conveys and regardless of your age or lot in life, I believe it remains relevant today. This poem can also be found in Know Your Enemy. I hope it will resonate with you too:

 

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When times get tough, as they often do
Plant your feet firmly; you’re going to make it through.
Dig down deep inside, and don’t be afraid to cry
But whatever you do, don’t ever ask why.
Remember what got you this far; you made it on your own,
But also remember family and friends are here
To make sure you’re not fighting alone.
Today the chips seem down, tomorrow’s a brand new day
And you know what you have to look forward to.
Everything-Going-Your-Way!