Living on Borrowed Time With Cancer

September 18, 2019
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.

One survivor discusses how to count moments, not months, and enjoy every single minute.

One of the greatest things about being a writer is that I have the opportunity to correspond with people with cancer from all over the world. Unfortunately, cancer is a universal disease. I have learned so much and am grateful for that.

I spoke with a woman named Georgia, who was initially given a year to live with her cancer and surpassed that. When speaking with her, she said, “We are living on borrowed time. I kind of like that though. Every day is a gift. Borrowed time is a gift.”

I mulled the idea of borrowed time over for a while, until I found another quote I love: “The butterfly counts not months but moments and has time enough.” I should note that I am fascinated by butterflies: Their metamorphosis from a cocoon to a butterfly was the emphasis of some of my previous contributions. Butterflies have a relatively short life span. The average butterfly lives seven to 10 days and some live 150 to 180 days. Meanwhile, a chosen few live 365 days.

I have lost friends and family from this horrible disease. I don’t feel any of them lived long enough. My oncologist told me one time it is never long enough for her patients.

Then, I think how these friends impacted me even after being diagnosed with cancer. They knew it wouldn’t be a “normal” life again, but they took advantage of the time they had left.

One particularly close friend, Sharry, was in hospice in a coma and her wonderful daughter, Tressa, texted me. I asked if she wanted me to bring my hearing ear service dog, who my friend adored. Tressa and Sharry were the ones who encouraged me to get my precious Sita. They would take care of her if I was on one of my cruises. Sita climbed up in Sharry’s lap and stayed until it was time to pull the ventilation tube. Tressa told me later her mother expressed the wish to have a dog with her before the coma — Sharry was a dog groomer, and these wonderful creatures were a huge part of her life. I texted Tressa a few minutes later and did not know this – talk about serendipity! Tressa told her mother Sita was on her way right before she lost consciousness. We think she knew somehow Sita was there. Meanwhile, Sita didn’t want to leave her and comforted all of us.

I wanted many more years with my friend (we all did), but I had to realize it was enough. Butterflies and dogs and other creatures of God have a lot to teach us. They have life figured out a whole lot sooner. They grasp each moment, do not worry and show unconditional love.

We can all learn from the butterfly to count moments, not months, and enjoy every single minute we have!

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