Will I Reach My Goal? Pondering Life as a Cancer Survivor


If we are honest, I think most of us wonder deep down if we are going to live long enough to see the next grandchild, attend an important wedding or anniversary, or finish a project.

I have met many fantastic cancer survivors who have truly inspired me on my journey. When we first meet, we may briefly share the doctor’s prognosis for how long we will live. Then we casually move on to “But I am going to beat those odds.”

However, if we are honest, I think most of us wonder deep down if we are going to live long enough to see the next grandchild, attend an important wedding or anniversary, or finish a project.

I wrote about Viktor Frankl in another article titled “With Cancer, There Is Always Hope.” He was imprisoned in four terrible Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust. In his book “Man’s Search for Meaning,” he writes that the people who survived the horrible conditions were generally the ones who had a reason for living, such as loved one, a career or a goal. His goal was to write a book, which he did. I think it is no coincidence that every cancer survivor I have met talks about a family, friends, jobs and a reason to keep going.

I have pledged to always be honest with my readers and have to admit that I sometimes have doubts about my projects and whether I will finish them or not. I have written three self-published books that were dear to my heart. One winter evening, I was watching one of those cheesy Hallmark movies. (Please give me a break — there was a foot of snow and it was zero degrees outside, and of course I knew the predictable ending!) In “One Winter Proposal,” a writer was upset with a bad review of her book, and her boyfriend made a very profound statement. “If it is in your heart, no one can touch it.”

I thought about that comment. This is the reason writing and my projects are important to me. I never intended to make a fortune but wanted the stories to get out there for other people to read. Two of the books are on my beloved service dog, and the third is on my cancer journey.

Presently, I am writing the most difficult book of all for me both personally and professionally. It is an autobiography about growing up hard of hearing in the 1950s and 1960s, before services were considered for children with disabilities and when discrimination was blatant. I continue chronicling my journey of learning sign language, making deaf friends and undergoing a career change because of the many great deaf and hard-of-hearing people I met. I went on to work with people with other disabilities, including seven years of working with blind people, who truly wove themselves into my heart. I then explain what it was like losing more of my hearing from chemo and how I try to live with cancer.

This has been a laborious and difficult book. There are many painful memories, and I have so much to tell that I am trying to weed out what may not be important or helpful.

Therefore, writing this story has not gone as fast as I had hoped. Deep down, I ask myself daily if I will have the time and energy to finish this. As one of my friends pointed out, “You are the only one who can write this.” We hear about authors who pass away and their works are picked up and published later, but this feels different somehow. A lot of it is still percolating in my head.

I know all of us must have these doubts. The very passion that keeps us going scares us. What if I don’t finish? What if I lie on my deathbed frustrated because I have a manuscript at home that no one has ever seen? What if all this writing is for nothing? For others, the question may be: What if that wedding or graduation is never attended? What if I do not see my children or grandchildren grow up?

But then we all have to remember what the author Robert Updegraff wrote: “Happiness is to be found along the way, not at the end of the road, for then the journey is over and it is too late.”

Ultimately, no one knows when we will draw our last breath. But we make a journey of faith, follow our passion, pray we will accomplish our goal, and enjoy every minute we are alive. And that has to be enough.

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