How To Live In The Present As Cancer Survivors

January 25, 2021
Jane Biehl Ph.D.
Jane Biehl Ph.D.

Jane is a ten-year survivor of a very rare form of cancer Myelodysplastic Syndrome. She has enjoyed several exciting careers including a librarian, counselor, teacher, and writer. She loves to write about surviving cancer, overcoming hearing loss, and her hearing ear service dog, Sita.

A simple quote reminds a cancer survivor of what is important for every one of us to remember.

Like many people who live in a northern climate, I have to brace myself during January, February, and March for the short days, lack of light and the inability to be outside with friends and family basking in the sunshine. This type of depression we feel has a name—seasonal affective disorder. Obviously, this sadness has been accentuated by the pandemic, where it is not even safe to go to lunch and dinner inside with friends and family.

Now, like most of us cancer survivors, I grapple with a roller coaster of emotions. I cherish every single day, but wonder how many more days I have left. I get my shots faithfully every week at the hospital knowing there will never be an end to treatments for a noncurable disease. When I feel more tired, I fear the cancer is getting worse. On my good days, I feel hopeful but on my bad days, I worry. I think most of us experience these fluctuating emotions during our day-to-day routines.

Recently, I entered a restaurant feeling depressed. This favorite spot of mine is a small local diner that has been around for years. It is simply furnished with comfortable booths and just a few pictures and quotes lining the walls. There, I saw this quote that said “DREAM as if you live forever. LIVE as if you only have today.” Such a simple quote but so poetic and true. Upon further research, I discovered this quote was attributed to the American actor James Dean. Ironically, he was killed in a terrible automobile accident at age 24, cutting off a wonderful and promising life.

I need to remember this every single day. Dream, dream, dream. We all have important ones, maybe we want to finish a book, see a child or grandchild's wedding, go on a special vacation. We are worried we will not be able to do these events, but we can dream. However, today is all any of us are guaranteed. Yesterday is past and tomorrow is not promised. We have today – the present. We are alive. It is here! We can enjoy the unique snowflakes out the window. We can call or e-mail a friend. We can send a card to cheer up someone. We can write in a journal, watch a fun television show or cook a meal. We can do whatever we enjoy. Today is here and we need to embrace it and not poison it by thinking about the uncertainties of future cancer brings.