The Art of Enjoying Each Breath


Many patients with cancer know of the importance of stepping back and enjoying the little things in life.

One of my favorite quotes is, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

I first saw this quote on the wall at my hairdresser. I loved it so much that I got online and purchased a similar decoration for me. It is hanging in my bedroom and I look at it every day. I had this hanging before I was diagnosed with cancer, but afterwards it had even more meaning. Every living being breathes, but how often do we have our breath taken away?

What are some of the events that cause us to have our breath taken away? Many times, for me, it is the beauty of nature. I am not good about stopping what I am doing and just watching the sunset. But I do take time when I am on a vacation. I remember being in Florida and a whole bunch of people took their lawn chairs, lined up with drinks and watched the sunset. I loved watching the sun slip into the water very slowly until it lit up the entire ocean and disappeared.

However, it occurred to me that this is the same sun I see at home. I do not have the ocean, nevertheless it is breathtaking to watch the sun dip behind the trees. I do not do it often enough.

I love coffee and have learned to savor each sip instead of gulping it. I also refuse to guzzle wine, but instead enjoy each precious taste. Maybe I do not have my breath taken away, but these are enjoyable moments.

I feel wonderful watching my dog roll in the grass after a long winter. My cat lying in the sun on his condo and his peaceful look is contagious. The wonderful feel of taking a baby’s hand and the soft skin against mine is fantastic. These are all moments that take my breath away if I pause long enough to enjoy them.

I am happiest when curled up with a great book, usually a mystery. I laugh and cry and enjoy each character and am sorry when the great book finally ends. Smelling the scent of flowers, feeling the warmth of the sun, enjoying the hug of a friend are all special moments.

And no one knows this more than cancer patients. The medical profession has spent centuries trying to find better medications and cures for cancer. But until recently, we have not used alternative methods like the countries in the Far East have. We can absorb so much from Reiki, massage, essential oils, hypnotism and exercise. The hospital where I get my treatments and the YMCA I go to have both done a fantastic job of promoting these for cancer patients. But they benefit every one of us — cancer diagnosis or not.

God gave us five senses, and we can use every one of them. Smell the flowers, taste the chocolate, look at the sunset, feel the grass, hear the music. If you are missing a sense, use the others. Even my profoundly deaf friends feel the beat of the music though their hands and feet and use touch. Blind people use their hearing to “see” in their own way and describe to me what a voice of someone “looks like.” As we age, the taste buds may not be as sharp, but we can attempt to find something that tastes good on our tongue. The smell of green grass can be enjoyed by most people if they put their nose to the ground.

Just think about how you can enjoy each breath you take. You can spend cherished time with your family and feel of a kiss of a child on your cheek. You might want to snuggle up with your partner in bed. There is no better feeling than a spring day and laughing with friends in the park. When we travel to a new place, we look over the terrain. The world is a wondrous place and you can find it both inside and outside of your home.

People who are cancer survivors know better than anyone how precious these breaths are. Grab them, enjoy them and know when you take your last one — you had a beautiful life!

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