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What's Important When the Diagnosis is Cancer

Updated on July 18, 2010

Cancer Treatment Can Lead Us Into Making Important Decisions

Changing Currents and Paths

   Glaciers melt. Water flows downstream. Those silted waters braid and bend and change. A river in Alaska never stays the same. The nuances of current, and the erratic deposition of rock, make it a symphony of unpredictability.

   You never know what to expect from an Alaskan River.

   Cancer is sometimes just like a river. It plays by its own rules, makes its own path through people's lives. It rearranges, and yes.... sometimes sweeps people up in its strong currents.



I'm No Physician

   Before we go further.... you must know that I am not a physician. I'm not writing this to save anyone, or to offer a cure. I unfortunately don't have the answers.

Something Really Important

   That's not my purpose. My purpose is to pass on a simple truth learned from a good friend.


   About three weeks ago, the phone rang early in the morning. It was the husband of my dear friend Susan. I learned that Susan had just passed away. She had finally ended her six year battle with colon cancer. Susan was a young woman in her early forties.

   Susan was also a co-founder of a group called S.O.S. which stands for Sisterhood of the Sunshine Survivors. It's a Florida non-profit organization consisting of about fifteen women who are survivors and caregivers.


   During this brief conversation, Bob quietly said, "You know six years ago. . . when Susan was first diagnosed I thought to myself, "This is the most horrible way a person can die. With cancer!"

   His voice got a little softer, a little quieter, a little more calm as he continued. . .

   "Now I know that it is the absolute BEST way a person can die."


Do Something That Can Never Be Repaid

   Bob went on to say that Susan had done everything she needed to. She had made it a point to do all the important little things. She called friends. She made science projects with her daughter. She carefully and methodically mapped out her life. Each day she did a little something special that could never be repaid. In other words. . . Susan lived each perfect day by doing something for someone who would never repay her.

Alaskan Men's Run

   Today as I participated in the Alaskan Men's Run in Anchorage (which is really geared for prostate survivors) I didn't think it mattered what type of cancer we were talking about. Susan always laughed that the "pink" breast cancer girls got the best color.

   At the exact time I was walking in Anchorage, the other S.O.S. girls were attending Susan's memorial service in Florida.

Making Small Decisions Each Day

   Susan decided to plan each day. She knew the importance of the small gesture, the kind word, and snappy wit. She made the decision to do something each day that could never be repaid.

Moving Water Usually Changes the Shoreline

Predictable Decisions Daily

Even though the length of life was shortened, Susan made predictable decisions each day that added up to a symphony.

Susan died with a smile on her lips.

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