William Ramshaw resides in the expansive Pacific Northwest. He is a six-year survivor of pancreatic cancer and has written a memoir Gut Punched! Facing Pancreatic Cancer.
Looking at the small things we may miss or take for granted can help us appreciate the changes that come along with a cancer diagnosis and how to weather the bad times.
Like so many, my pre-cancer life consisted of plowing through each week with the hope of a little downtime over the weekend, before planting my face into Monday. That was then.
Seven years post pancreatic cancer where many don’t see two years and most don’t see five, I have taken a harder look at life, my life. Things I paid no mind to I now wonder how I looked right past them.
A glimpse at an unexpected sunset.
There is something majestic about a sunset. Time freezes. The world pauses. I didn’t expect to see many more after getting word I had a type of cancer few survive, I now treat each new day as a gift because that is what it is, a gift. The purples and pinks, hues of red, faint blues, bursts of yellow, none of which fit well on a color wheel, explode, all unexpected.
A squirrel foraging for food.
We all could learn a bit from the squirrels. Simple creatures who go about their lives as if tomorrow doesn’t matter. I can often figure out what kind of winter is coming by watching them scurry around in my backyard. One we named Chubby Pants could use some gym-time. He or she, we don’t know which, along with a couple of pals get busy harvesting pinecones and pear berries each fall.
Somehow, these little hoarders are provided for though none of them have 8-to-5 jobs or even houses to call home. They just live their lives as a matter of necessity not worrying about an unexpected call from their doctor concerning some gray smudge on their latest scan. They get by just fine. We will too. Life will continue without our help. If you don’t believe me, watch the squirrels.
An endless winter night.
Not all that long ago, sleep did not come easy. Both unending worry and pain chased it away. Now with the winter the days short and sunlight rationed, sleep comes easier. It seems by early afternoon the sun falls behind the distant mountains. These limitless winter nights sing lullabies to me. Blankets of snow deaden the cacophony of clatter, people racing off to work, the trash being picked up or the morning paper being delivered. The sun hides itself until late morning allowing me a little more dream time until my day starts afresh. I live for these endless winter nights.
Kids playing at the bus stop.
Out my front window sits a school bus stop. Each morning a dappled flock of kids assemble waiting to be dragged off to a place they don’t want to go. Resigned to their sad fate, some stand motionless inspecting their sneakers while others dance around like ballerinas doing pirouettes. You can hear it coming as the distant rumble grows, it squeaks to stop and they disappear into it. As I wait for my lab results, I feel like a kid waiting for the bus resigned to my fate.
Running a simple errand to town.
OK call me weird but I love running to town to pick up a few things. Nothing big mind you, go to the hardware store to get some boards for something I plan to build or pick up some fresh chicken for dinner. Stuff like that. I organize the places I need to go into a large loop, so I don’t cross back over my route.
Post-treatment, due to unending weariness, I had to pare down these errands to nil. If I had a medical emergency I wondered where I would go? Now that I am back to somewhat normal, I have found there’s a guilty pleasure to running a simple errand.
A well-played song.
Songs speak to me in a way words cannot. After one chemo treatment, I dragged myself to my car to start my trek to work. The day fit my mood, a bleak January one, dank snow filled the ditches alongside the road. As I headed to work You’ve Got A Friend began to play. With tears welling up in my eyes I sensed I wasn’t facing cancer alone but something far bigger than me was watching over me. Some call this their higher power, I’ll call it a presence.
I would portend that all of us, not only cancer survivors would do well to see the small things encircling us. There are abundant things to be thankful for if we would only open our eyes.