A Life Well Lived?

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Living with stage 4 cancer begs reflection. Have I lived my life with purpose? How will I be remembered? Did I do all I wanted to do?

cartoon drawing of cancer survivor and blogger,  Suzanne Remington

My daughter is fascinated by the world’s “Blue Zones” — places where a large percentage of people live to be 100. Someone even compiled a list of commonalities among these “blue zones”. Following a religion is on the list, as is a plant-based diet with fish. And building exercise into your daily life, like gardening, farming and walking. And (probably the most important), living with purpose. My daughter subscribes to the list. To her, a life well-lived means being healthy enough to really live and having a long time to do it. She has actually turned this passion into a vocation as she uses behavior analysis in her Health Coach job to help others achieve that long, healthy, adventure-filled life. 

But Buddy Holly lived only twenty-two years, George Seurat was thirty-one when he died, while Mozart lived to thirty-five. Each had immeasurable influence (and adventures) during their time on earth, in spite of their short time in it — proving that a life well lived does not mean it has to be long. My grandmother’s time on earth was considerably longer, marked by hard work, generosity, kindness — proving that a life well lived can also be a life lived simply. This group of people had purpose. Some world-wide big, another family-sized small. Purpose is not measured in size, but in passion.

At church every Sunday, we are given the weekly message to use our God-given talents for good. I don’t have the musical talents of a Buddy Holly or a Mozart, and certainly lack the artistic talents of a George Seurat. But I spent my working years using my talents toward improving the lives of children. Since retirement, I have continued to try to do that as a volunteer Guardian Ad Litem for children involved in the court system. I have also found other purposes, relating to helping others living with cancer, particularly Alk+ non-small cell lung cancer. I even spent a day this week in Washington DC advocating for medical research funding. But other opportunities are ignored, or I am just too tired or too sick to participate. I don’t help serve at the local soup kitchen. I don’t read to school children. I didn’t help this weekend at the church fair. It is hard to self-evaluate one’s own life without thinking of missed opportunities. Hopefully when my story is told, something of me is left behind and what I have done will be enough.

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Image of Dr. Minesh Mehta at ASCO 2024.