BY WILLIAM CONLEY While I'm not a cancer patient, I have several close to me that are survivors, including my fiance, who is in remission from myeloma. I have seen first-hand how cancer changes a person, whether it be the one diagnosed or those that love them. I have not seen one instance where cancer doesn't make one better. It is a tough learning lesson that no one would choose. One thing that I have noticed is that those impacted by cancer want to achieve a more meaningful life. They want to live life with greater passion and joy. And this got me thinking... how can one do that? Here are my thoughts: 1) Do I need that? A friend of mine who was diagnosed with cancer once loved to shop. As soon as she got sick, she looked in her closet at all the items she purchased and realized that they meant nothing to her. What did matter was her health and the people she loved. Now that she has gotten "better," she has engaged in retail therapy but this time, it's not with the same fervor. Most of us purchase items that we don't need. Buying "stuff" takes up a lot of time and money. And it takes even more time to care for all that "stuff," to put it away, keep it clean, fix things that get broken. So the next time you are shopping, ask yourself if you really need that. This principle isn’t limited to just purchases. It can include a move, a new job, a relationship, vacation, or most anything. This is just a great decision-making question (which is why I listed it first). Of course, life is now; life is today. So if you're wanting to do something, and especially if you've been wanting to do it for a long time, I say go for it (as long as your doctor and checking account agree!). 2) Is that the best you can do? I love this question and use it almost every day. Especially as a cancer survivor, and a caregiver of one who is currently in treatment, be good to yourself. No one knows your capacity better than you do and make no apologies when you can't do more. That said, I think it's important to really try in all we do, regardless of our health status. If you need extra rest, a foot massage, or a more healthy diet, ask for it, go for it, do what you can. Especially when it comes to things that impact your health and relationships, do your best. Your best may not be what it once was, but maybe it can be even better. You know your limitations and your potential. Maybe pick one thing you can simply try to do "better." 3) Is it time? As in… Is it time to lose weight? Is it time to move? Is it time to eat healthier? Get cancer screenings? Exercise better? See a therapist? Is it time to get married again? Go on a trip or go skydiving? Or buy a new car? Is it time to try a new medication or even find a new doctor? This question requires you to think about a decision that needs to be made. Once answered, it’s time to act. If the answer is yes, it is time, then have you thought it through thoroughly? If you have, then go for it and don't slow down until it is complete. 4) Does it really matter? This is something those in the cancer community probably know far too well. Cancer really makes one think about priorities! So, does it matter? Be honest! This questions allows you to take a moment to contemplate what is really important and to pick your battles wisely. In the scheme or things and in every day life, if it really doesn't matter all that much, don't waste your time on it. 5) Think before you speak We all need a reminder that words have consequences. That is why it is so important that you take a moment to think before you speak. We have all heard this before but how many of us put this into practice on a daily basis? So much of what we say just comes out of our mouth without thought. For my fiance, when she has taken Dex, she REALLY needs to think before she speaks! By taking a moment to think through what you are about to say allows you to contemplate about the impact of your words. Because once a word is spoken, you cannot take it back. 6) Can I afford it? This is a good question to ask yourself before many of the purchases you make or any other indulgence, like a trip or expensive hobby. This will impact nothing less than your financial security. That’s pretty important, don’t you think? If you simply take the time to think about a purchase or activity, you’ll almost certainly end up saving time and money. Because unless you hit the lottery, chances are many of the things you’re buying and doing aren’t really something you can (or should) afford. Just because you see something you want, doesn't mean it is wise to buy. That said, life is about now and today. Creating memories and doing things you've always wanted to do is important, too. So know your priorities and don't forget to have fun (within your budget and limitations). 7) Stay on track Once you have decided to do something, stay on track. Outline what needs to get done and then do it. Stay focused and motivated. Remind yourself of the importance of accomplishing what you have set out to achieve. Staying on track requires discipline, willpower and inner strength. Easier said than done, no doubt. But I constantly remind myself of my goals and then throughout my day, I ask myself if I am on track. It’s an important gut-check and it helps. 8) Win the argument, lose the battle? How many of us have won an argument yet lost the battle? Not so smart, is it? Do you always have to be right? In the long run, is it more important to be right than to be happy? What difference does it make who is right? How does being right affect your relationships? Most times, it makes no difference at all other stirring up contention. If you remind yourself that you don't always have to be right, your relationships will be much happier and peaceful. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? I remember one time debating with a friend the best way to make popcorn. It got heated and I had to literally talk myself off the wall. Did it matter how either of us preferred our popcorn? It's so silly but the answer is, of course not! Pick your battles because most of the time, it's not worth it. 9) Who is it about? Is it about you or someone else? Is it about your children? Your family? The school? Your church? The community? Ask yourself why and for whom are you doing something. Sometimes we spend more time trying to please others at our own expense and to our own peril. Sometimes we hang on to toxic relationships "just because." Throughout your day, ask yourself who you are doing this for and why? Knowing why you do what you do will provide you with greater clarity and, at the end of the day, greater happiness. 10) Love unconditionally Love without expecting anything in return. Love without placing conditions on your love. Love as though you were giving a gift and your only desire is to see the expression on another's face. Love selflessly. Love as you want to be loved. When you love others in pure ways as these, love will flow back to you just as you have given it. These 10 phrases require that you spend a lot of time talking to yourself (though hopefully not out loud among crowds of people!) and taking time to reflect on what is important to you. Many of us go throughout our day not taking the time to think, we just react moment by moment to events that happen throughout the day. It’s not a great way to make good decisions, is it? If you remember these principles and questions, they’ll help guide you in achieving a life of greater meaning with less confusion and greater clarity.
about the author
Lizzy Smith was diagnosed with myeloma in 2012 at age 44. Within days, she left her job, ended her marriage, moved, and entered treatment. "To the extent I'm able, I want to prove that despite life's biggest challenges, it is possible to survive and come out stronger than ever," she says.