Live in the Moment: A Lesson From Cancer. And Preschoolers.

Started by anonymous, December 16, 2014
10 replies for this topic
anonymous

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Posted on
December 16, 2014
Having stage 4, incurable, metastatic, terminal lung cancer (or "eventually terminal" as my cancer buddy says) has made me acutely aware of death in a way I never expected to be at age 38.
 
I walk in the land of the living with the oppressive knowledge of how very close we all are to the land of the dead.
 
I know that right now my cancer is under control, but one day this roller coaster will dip down again. Will it come back up or will it be the final plunge?
 
~~~
 
People ask me how I cope, knowing how very uncertain my future is. Learning to cope has been a gradual, ongoing process. First was the shock, a frozen inability to process this new reality. Then there was the grief, the acknowledgement of my lost future, all the things I had just assumed that I would get to do and see. The plans that I had laid crumbled beneath my feet. But I realized that I couldn't stay in that mental space. I felt like I was wasting the time I had left here by focusing on my lost path.
 
So I stopped looking down that road. I started doing what all the self-help gurus tell you. I grabbed onto the old cliché and focused on "living in the moment." It is liberating and bizarre. And I get strange jolts when I remember that most people don't live like this.
 
I'll look back on this when I'm 80 and I'll laugh about it!
 
This will make a great story to tell my grandkids!
 
I avoid thinking about my own future in any concrete terms. I can think in a general sense about the future of the world, how things might be one day. But to think about my family five years from now sends a pang through my heart.
 
In five years, our little boy will be 11 and in middle school. Will he still have his heart-achingly gentle outlook on the world? Will he still be the kind soul who once explained to me, the reason Oscar the Grouch is so unhappy is because he lives in a garbage can. How can he sleep? The poor creature is miserable, no wonder he is rude.
 
In five years the twin girls will be 8. There will be no baby talk left in them. The terrifying sounding "pinado" will become a simple "piano," and the aptly named "hungerburgers" will be plain old "hamburgers."
 

 
 
Those 3-year-olds have the concept of living in the moment down to a marvelous, frustrating science. When prancing around the house like Elsa and Anna, nothing else in the world matters.

"It's time to get dressed and go to preschool."

"But we're dancing!!!"
 
Really, what matters more than the joy of spinning around in fairy wings and a cape? Being around small children forces you to stay in the present moment. The runny noses and sore tummies are so grounded in reality and immediacy that there is little room left for worry about futures that may or may not be.
 
~~~
 
Isn't part of growing up focusing on the future? Be an adult. Plan for tomorrow. Think ahead. Prepare for the rainy day. How are you supposed to do that when you KNOW that your future holds a typhoon? If you focus on the storm, your today will be washed away. Who knows how long any one of us has? In my case, I most likely know what is going to be the cause of my death. Does that make it different?
 
So I avoid thinking about the future. At least most of the time.
 
It's a tricky balance. I am a mom, so a big part of my job is preparing my kids for the future. How do I prepare them for a future that may not include me?
 

Tori Tomalia is many things: a mom, a wife, a theatre artist, a mediocre cook, a Buffy fan, a stinky cheese aficionado. She is also, unfortunately, a repeat visitor to Cancerland. Stay tuned for her continued adventures.
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Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
December 16, 2014
Having stage 4, incurable, metastatic, terminal lung cancer (or "eventually terminal" as my cancer buddy says) has made me acutely aware of death in a way I never expected to be at age 38.
 
I walk in the land of the living with the oppressive knowledge of how very close we all are to the land of the dead.
 
I know that right now my cancer is under control, but one day this roller coaster will dip down again. Will it come back up or will it be the final plunge?
 
~~~
 
People ask me how I cope, knowing how very uncertain my future is. Learning to cope has been a gradual, ongoing process. First was the shock, a frozen inability to process this new reality. Then there was the grief, the acknowledgement of my lost future, all the things I had just assumed that I would get to do and see. The plans that I had laid crumbled beneath my feet. But I realized that I couldn't stay in that mental space. I felt like I was wasting the time I had left here by focusing on my lost path.
 
So I stopped looking down that road. I started doing what all the self-help gurus tell you. I grabbed onto the old cliché and focused on "living in the moment." It is liberating and bizarre. And I get strange jolts when I remember that most people don't live like this.
 
I'll look back on this when I'm 80 and I'll laugh about it!
 
This will make a great story to tell my grandkids!
 
I avoid thinking about my own future in any concrete terms. I can think in a general sense about the future of the world, how things might be one day. But to think about my family five years from now sends a pang through my heart.
 
In five years, our little boy will be 11 and in middle school. Will he still have his heart-achingly gentle outlook on the world? Will he still be the kind soul who once explained to me, the reason Oscar the Grouch is so unhappy is because he lives in a garbage can. How can he sleep? The poor creature is miserable, no wonder he is rude.
 
In five years the twin girls will be 8. There will be no baby talk left in them. The terrifying sounding "pinado" will become a simple "piano," and the aptly named "hungerburgers" will be plain old "hamburgers."
 

 
 
Those 3-year-olds have the concept of living in the moment down to a marvelous, frustrating science. When prancing around the house like Elsa and Anna, nothing else in the world matters.

"It's time to get dressed and go to preschool."

"But we're dancing!!!"
 
Really, what matters more than the joy of spinning around in fairy wings and a cape? Being around small children forces you to stay in the present moment. The runny noses and sore tummies are so grounded in reality and immediacy that there is little room left for worry about futures that may or may not be.
 
~~~
 
Isn't part of growing up focusing on the future? Be an adult. Plan for tomorrow. Think ahead. Prepare for the rainy day. How are you supposed to do that when you KNOW that your future holds a typhoon? If you focus on the storm, your today will be washed away. Who knows how long any one of us has? In my case, I most likely know what is going to be the cause of my death. Does that make it different?
 
So I avoid thinking about the future. At least most of the time.
 
It's a tricky balance. I am a mom, so a big part of my job is preparing my kids for the future. How do I prepare them for a future that may not include me?
 

Tori Tomalia is many things: a mom, a wife, a theatre artist, a mediocre cook, a Buffy fan, a stinky cheese aficionado. She is also, unfortunately, a repeat visitor to Cancerland. Stay tuned for her continued adventures.
Report
Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
December 17, 2014
Tori, I know in my heart that living in the moment is vital to sustaining life. Thank you for this article. In 1999 I was told that I would be in a wheel chair within 6 months and dead within two years. Years of mis-diagnoses followed, and now I finally figured it out myself through my own research that my cancers were caused by a fungal etiology and after killing the fungus, and eating a Paleo diet, I am pain-free, walking, working, and LIVING! The overgrowth of yeast from eating wheat and corn that are mold-ridden and full of gliadin, caused all this misery in my body. When my children had a meeting to decide who was going to take care of MOM who was bed-ridden, paralyzed, having seizures regularly and no pain meds touched the pain that ravaged her body, I knew I had to find the answer myself, and I did! Thank God for Dr. William Davis and Dr. David Perlmutter and Dr. Terry Wahls! Living well through eating well!
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Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
December 17, 2014
Jo, I am so glad that you were able to find something to help you on a path to a better life! I have certainly learned the importance of advocating for oneself, and taking an active role in one's own care. May you have continued good health.
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Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
December 17, 2014
Hi Tori- I'm sending you love and light as a mother, wife and relentless advocate & cheerleader for my husband. My husband was diagnosed with stage 4 non small cell lung cancer at 38 years old in March of 2012. At the time, I was 10 weeks pregnant with our second child. Quentin and I adopted this same motto! Sending you courage and hope as you enter a new year! You are a warrior! Hug and kiss your loved ones.. Xoxo
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Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
December 17, 2014
I just wrote another letter to my kids. This time it was for my son on his 12th birthday, 5 years from now. It's hard--I have no idea what the family situation will be like, if everyone will be healthy, if they'll still be living in Maryland... So I rambled a bit. I told him that it was OK--I didn't date anyone when I was 12, so no rush. Ha, you know, just in case he were the same as I was at that age--only caring about video games--and feeling like he should be dating... And I wrote for him to listen to his mom, and I reminded him again that it was his choice whether or not he wanted to have a Bar-Mitzvah the following year. And I wrote that I still loved him forever.
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Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
December 17, 2014
Amy - I'm sorry you know this life so well. I hope your husband is managing with treatment. Have they tested for mutations? Being a young person with lung cancer, there is an increased chance that he may have a targetable mutation (I have ROS1 and take a daily targeted pill to control my cancer). Here is a website that give more information, if he hasn't been tested yet. http://dontguesstestlungcancer.com/ Best of luck!
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Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
December 17, 2014
Oren - I know, ugh, I know. What you wrote is beautiful. Thank you. Best of luck to you. I hope they can find something to keep extending your time with your family.
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Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
December 18, 2014
Tori, Of course you know I am older. You know I have grown kids. So, reasonably, you must feel, "What does she have to feel bad about?" I would. Yet, the same heartache pervades. The idea that the future which always seemed to me to be possible, assuming I did not get hit by bus(nearly did once) is no longer what? That is the key. We don't know. Is it possible? It must be for some people. We could hope for the long long tail to be our story. But mostly we dance like your daughters, at least on good days, striving to ignore the statistics, the fear. Just dancing. I care.
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Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
December 21, 2014
Mary, young or old this is a scary diagnosis to live with. Cancer steals things away from us, and the naivete that we have long futures ahead of us is one of them. It is mostly that lost ignorance that I miss. In the mean time, I agree - let's keep dancing. Thanks for writing, I love your comments!
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Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
December 24, 2014
Tori, thank you for your blog. You're inspiring and profound, and so courageous to share your thoughts with us. Thinking of you and your loved ones, sending my best. Happy holidays.
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