Despite a malignant brain tumor, Bob Oshefsky will run his 12th Chicago Marathon. Listen to what he says: “When I leave here, I personally don’t believe it’ll be brain cancer, because I’m not going to change my risk profile on things that I would do. If I want to go zip-lining, I’ll go zip-lining. In all likelihood, I’ll probably get hit by a bus before this brain cancer can take me out, I’ve got a lot of life to live.” (read more in the link above.)
Bob is right on point. In a similar way, I like to redirect the thoughts of people who say to me things like, “How do you handle facing something that you know is going to kill you?” The reality is that we are all born with the same fatal condition here on earth: like it or not we all going to die. None us knows when or from what, not even those of us with brain tumors. Any one of us could have a fatal wreck on the home, get hit by lightening, you name it. The only difference between you and someone like me is that I have a better idea of what will take me out.”
Due to my condition, I’m blessed with an opportunity to live life a little more fully, How can I use a world like “blessed” with a brain tumor? I’ve been forced to face my own mortality, forced to slow down the carousel of life, and forced to think about priorities. Like just about everybody else, before my diagnosis, death was something that happened to other people. In a sense, I felt invincible. Do you? Now I’m not suggesting that everybody go crawl in a hole and begin to panic that you might die tomorrow. In fact, that attitude is probably more certain to kill you than being 100 pounds overweight, smoking a carton of cigarettes a day and drinking a gallon of vodka in a day. What I am suggesting is that you you temper that sense of invincibility and think a bit more carefully about priorities.
One last point. Please don’t even begin to think that I (or probably Bob too) just sail through this illness without any problem. For me, I can get pretty low, withdrawn, and self absorbed. Notice that I say self absorbed as opposed to selfish. When my bad days combine all of these issues, I crawl into a little cocoon that is well away from others and focus on the tumor in my head, my memory loss, etc. In short, I can say with certainty that I do not always think of my tumor as a blessing.
For me, like Bob, maintaining as much a sense of normalcy one important component of battling this nasty disease, There are so many other tools of use: faith, hope, humor, and friendships, to name a few. However, now that I think about it they are fabulous tools for everyday life. As Red in the movie Shawshank redemption says: “Get busy living or get busy dying.” I choose life.