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Living on the top floor with cancer.
I remember my first elevator ride to the top of the Empire State Building many years ago. As the doors squeezed shut I was thrust into a constricted world of stainless steel and uncertainty in which I had no authority or opportunity to make that flight into the unknown any less troubling. My fate was in the hands of others. The truth is, every time we drive our cars down the street or lie prone on an operating table, we submit our very lives to the actions of the world around us. We are, it seems, no longer in control.
Having survived that wild ride to the 102nd floor decades ago, I find myself engaged in yet another thrilling journey. It’s the expedition through cancer, but this time, it’s a roundtrip I’m looking for. The idea, you see, is to return safely to the very spot from which I started: cancer free.
As a relative newcomer in the cancer arena, I’ve become increasingly aware of another phenomenon that has crept into my own recovery plans. It’s a sort of “glass ceiling” that has appeared overhead, created by me.
Basically it works like this: In my first year as a cancer survivor, my thoughts have been about taking care of business, asking questions about what I want to accomplish in my life, getting my affairs in order, prioritizing my time and focusing on enjoying every day that I have. All of this has been based on the idea that my time might be limited. I see that this has been a great opportunity to be inspired and get some things done, but at the same time, I suspect that all of this has inadvertently diminished my view of the future somewhat.
In other words, I’ve been focusing on short-term plans and purposes in the event that my time runs out sooner than I would prefer. In dealing with life in this mode, the future becomes murky. More importantly, some of those dreams I’ve carried for a very long time are in danger of surrendering their ability to manifest in my life.
As an example, I didn’t really start to play piano until just a few years ago. I enjoy the process of teaching myself and progressing ever-so-slowly. It’s one of those things that I might easily have cast off as impossible considering my age and the remaining years I might have to live.
Part of me says, "Dude, why don’t you just close the keyboard since there’s no chance you’ll ever be really good at it?” Another, much wiser part seems to be screaming, "Go for it! A bend in the road isn’t the end of the road."
Therein lies the dilemma. I suspect that many of us with a life-threatening disease are pretty busy during our first months or years until one day when we are able to stop looking back over our shoulder at all we’ve been doing to stay alive, and glance ahead — perhaps a long way ahead — and grasp a piece of our future.
As for me, I hear that the tallest building in the world at this moment is in Dubai and is known as the Burj Khalifa. It has 163 floors.
I’m planning on taking an elevator to the top.