Don't Take Your Life for Granted

Last week I wrote a blog about living in the moment and actually savoring every experience no matter how seemingly trivial. I was speaking from personal experience and last night that message was unexpectedly reinforced in the strongest terms.
The story begins last August  (most of you have heard this and are probably getting sick of it, but bear with me) when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. All cancer is serious business, but if you have to have cancer, prostate is the one to have; if caught early enough, it is one of the most operable and curable types of cancer you can have…I flippantly called it “Cancer lite.”
I reported for robot assisted surgery on the morning of September 30th and fully expected to be back at work in two weeks. Unfortunately, during the procedure one of the robot’s arms nicked two major blood vessels and unbeknownst to the surgeons, I had massive internal hemorrhaging.  They discovered the problem later that day when my blood pressure dropped to near zero, my heart stopped and I stopped breathing. I was revived and whisked off to another surgery. In the course of the second surgery, the surgeon found one of the bleeders, but not the second, so 10 hours later we experienced another “code blue” which required another resuscitation and another emergency surgery, during which they opened my abdomen from groin to sternum and also during which all my vital functions stopped again. It took another three surgeries to fix the problem and then to wait for the swelling to go down enough to stuff my insides back inside and close me up. It took three months for me to heal enough to return to work on a limited basis, two of those months were spent flat on my back (try to move or do anything without using your abdominal muscles). That experience gave me a huge dose of my own mortality, and as I said in previous blogs the experience changed my outlook and attitude from living in the future to living in the moment.
Then last month, my oldest friend in the world called me to inform me that his little sister (a woman who was also like a sister to me) had ovarian, cervical and bladder cancer and was declared inoperable and terminal. The time between diagnosis and death was slightly more than a month. She was a young and vital woman with a successful career, a loving partner and big plans for a bright future. Unfortunately, she will never get the chance to realize those dreams.
Last night the same friend called me to say that he was in hospital. He hadn’t been feeling like himself for the past few days and had begun to feel light headed and had chronic indigestion. He went to his primary care provider and within the hour was in the intensive care unit of the local hospital. All his primary cardiac blood vessels were between 90 to 95% blocked; the doctor said, “your blood cells are lining up single file to get through your arteries.” He will undergo a quadruple bypass this morning and while this type of surgery has become fairly routine (just like prostate cancer removal), it will still be a full-blown, open chest, open heart surgery. Luckily, he has one of the best cardiac surgeons in the LA area attending to him so we have every expectation he will have a successful surgery and get back to his life in reasonably short order. He was lucky that he paid attention to his symptoms because “they” say if he had waited for another week or two he may not have made it to the hospital.
Once again, he is a reasonably young man with a successful professional career with dreams and plans for the future (we’re in the process of making plans to organize an expedition to kayak the entire length of the Grand River in Michigan in a year or two…not the Amazon, but hey, we’re both pushing 60)!
Once again, my point is that life is precious and short. None of us know how much time we have and when the alarm will go off, so it’s up to us to make the most of every minute we have here on the big wet rock we call Earth. So, please don’t take your life and time for granted. Tell, or even better yet, show those you care about how much you love them. Don’t keep putting off your dreams for “someday when the time is better” Try your best to live a life of mindfulness and intentionality. Like the Zen say, “If you’re washing a bowl, wash the bowl,” make washing that bowl the single most important thing in your existence at the moment…live and truly experience your life as it happens…and while you still have the chance.
Hoping you have an intentionally great day.

By | 2014-06-24T10:25:33-04:00 June 24th, 2014|Cancer, Coping with Loss, Uncategorized|3 Comments

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  1. Gayle Down June 24, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    I had quad. Heart bypass about 6 years ago. I had early signs of a heart attack. For me, as for most women, it presents quit differently. Small pain between my shoulder blades that wouldn’t go away. Thankfully, spirit told me to go to the hospital and within a few hours I was at U of M undergoing surgery.
    This surgery is not a piece of cake , but not as bad as one might think. If your friend has real depression problems afterwards that is normal for this. Time and a good attitude are important. He should be fine,but it takes a good while.

  2. Mike-Dee Cochrane June 24, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    Well said Rich! I had no idea what you went through and am glad you are still with us! Take care friend!

  3. Jan Angstman June 24, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    Well Said !! Great Advice !! So AMAZING how we still take things, days, people, friends, family, EVERYTHING for granted—–

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