The time of my life

Posted on March 15th, 2008 by Cam.
Categories: Let's talk.

I have been trying to work out how to have the time of my life. It has been on our minds lately. This is partly fuelled by preparing for high-dose in a month’s time, and watching Bucket List the other day.

The high-dose chemo and stem cell transplant process usually has good results, and there is no real reason to be worried about the process itself, other than it is uncomfortable. But this month we have had to start thinking about planning for the future and how we want to spend our time in a way that is meaningful.

There is actually quite a difference in how we decide to spend our time depending on what timeframe we look at. Two years, 5 years, 10 years and 25 years all have different outcomes of how we would decide to spend this time. Because we don’t know the time frame, it can cause quite a dilemma. In this way, we are really no different to anyone else. None of us know what time we have to play with. Some of you reading this may be gone before I am. It is just that I have been given a head start with an early warning system being tripped. Lucky, huh.

I do know this though, if I have got a really short time, I want to spend it with people. I could sacrifice learning new skills for the sake of hanging out with people- purely and simply. If I have 10 years though, I want to be learning new things and not landing in a pit of atrophy. Of course, I still want to be spending time with people, but there would be attention to purposeful combining the focus. Given 25 years, this outlook would change again.

There is more to write on having a family, but it has been going through our minds quite a lot recently too with contemplating different time frames. The hardest of questions we have had to ponder is do we start a family in such uncertain times. My condition could easily shift within 9 months, so an affirmative decision could be carried out in different circumstances than those during which the decision was made. Ultimately, the best legacy I could put my efforts into would be to raise a child for as long as I could, as best I could. Being a good husband and father would be the foci most worthy of my time. I know that the former is essential, but the latter needs a decision. Obviously faith will play a huge part in this call, and also information about my prognosis. At this stage however, it is unknown. Like I say, much more to write on this. Later.

Vocation is another area needing thought. The shorter the timeframe, the more I want to work with people and develop my skills in making positive change. I love my work at the moment being a Silversmith and an Educator. In the long term, I see the continuation of the silversmith work as important in understanding my heritage. I am now fourth generation in this trade, and it is important to me now to understand what is an important part of my identity. I have silver and gold running through my veins. It would be nice to understand that more, but with gold prices the way they are at the moment, I am happy to stick with the silver.

Education is essential for effective change – essential. So I don’t want to leave this aspect of my vocation. As much as teaching in school has left me disillusioned for the time being, interacting with and educating upcoming generations will always be a wise use of my time. So it is something I will always want to pursue. I have sometimes known the education profession to be detrimental to lifestyle and wellbeing, and if I were to remain in those circumstances it would not be worth my time, nor my students’. In all the other aspects I have utilised education, it would be a great use of my time. When the body can cope with it, and the teaching environment is right, teaching is fantastic. I have been more than privileged to work with the students, teachers and parents that I have been able to work with over the years.

Mixing these two areas of vocation with the other areas I am passionate about requires a great deal of decision making and prioritising. Day to day, I need to decide how to spend the time while balancing this with the need to rest when my body needs it. It can be frustrating. It seems that the most intense time of tension is when my body can’t do much, but my mind is racing with ideas and motivation. The body usually needs to win, for health’s sake. The other aspect of this situation is that if I have limited time, I don’t want to spend it crashing on a couch for a few days. I want to force my body to do something constructive. Anything.

My ‘Bucket List’ (or wish list of things you want to do before ‘kicking the bucket’) is fluid at the moment because I don’t know what timeframe I am working with. Should it matter? I don’t know. Logistically it makes a difference. Philosophically, it may not. Still working through it. I know some of you are reading this and you are at a pointier end to this issue than I. I would be grateful for your thoughts.

I would have thought that by facing such issues as I have been facing, I would have changed my thoughts and behaviours to be as good as I can be, as gracious as I can be, and as angelic as I can be. Not the case. The sad fact is that chemo doesn’t get rid of the moral cancer that inhabits us all. The echoes of being a tainted human are still strong in me. The living a life that honours my wife, family, friends and bystanders is now in more tension than ever as it battles with the desires of what I want to get out of a life that is limited by time. It is like the episode of The Goodies (apologies to my US friends- you can YouTube The Goodies a bit) when they know when the world is going to end and their lives go into chaos. I feel like that in these days sometimes.

Everything considered, it is a fine place to be. If we all had to consider how we spent our time wisely with the consideration that our time may be limited, it can open up an urgency and a refining of ideas that surely beats the hell out of living without a known purpose or at least a real sense that our time here carting these shells of flesh around is finite.

So writing a list of things to do in this lifetime has been on our minds. In saying this, I hope that I can look back in 25 years time with my kids and be thankful that I considered these things in retrospect, knowing that we were dealing with these issues as the issues that were foremost in our minds at this stage of our lives. It could have been worse. I could have been awakened to these issues when I was 89 and the opportunities for deciding how I spent my time would be limited to what board game they let me play at the nursing home or what numbers to choose for Bingo each week. What a painful privilege I have. What a painful privilege we all have.

11 comments.

South Georgia Redneck

Comment on March 16th, 2008.

First things first…Sorry I missed your birthday. Happy Happy Joy Joy! Welcome to 34. Its pretty cool.

The next thing is this. I am currently going back to school to get my specialist degree in administration and the university is in Tennessee. So, once a month for a year I drive up there with two colleagues and go to class all day Saturday and wham I am a qualified know it all:) Well, on last nights journey north we got stuck in traffic for about an hour on the north side of Atlanta. It turns out that it was because of an accident on the highway. As we approached, my heart sank as I saw the 18 wheeler on its side with the cab completely crushed.
My immediate thoughts went first to his family in a silent prayer and then I wondered what his last day was like. Did he live it? complain about problems? fight with a loved one? Then I thought of you dopey. What challenges you face…choices…decisions. I am stressed and complaining about a full load. Coaching baseball, teaching school, being married, and having two daughters. Then shame overwhelmed me because I thought of the joy yyou would have to be doing all of those things. I’m sorry for that. I have to apologize to you for taking my blessings for granted. There is a fellow coach of mine who is undergoing some treatments for his bladder. I told him of your site. I then apologized immediately to him for being so dang pessimistic all the time. I am truly blessed in my life. I, once again, owe you. Hopefully some day yyou can cash in on all these debts from me by visiting myy family with your wife and children…yes…the world should be so lucky to have more cams. I love you brother! Sorry for my ramblings…I hope they make some sense.

Cam

Comment on March 16th, 2008.

There is no owing anything brother, or it would be me who is in debt. Knowing that there have been so many life highlights that I have spent in your presence, because of you. I have no doubt those around you feel the same. Even if I never had a bucket list, visiting you and your family is always going to be a high priority for me.
And don’t think that your struggles are less significant. Whatever stops us living full lives is worth changing for the better. Looking forward to seeing you soon. Love back at’cha. C (aka Dopey).

Beth

Comment on March 16th, 2008.

Pretty ‘pointy’ where we are just now. Every day it is hard to decide what is the most important task, need or preference to make time for, when time is so precious.
It’s people – not things … that helps clarify any indecision for me. Everything else will wait.
99% of me thinks I’m just helping Mum through the effort, fuss and dramas in preparation for a big trip away. Business affairs, social and practical things – all important to her, so that’s what I do. Get through ‘this’ and things will be back to normal and everything will be the same. Trouble is, there is this little guy, number 100 I call him, that makes a bit of noise in my head about Mum not being there when we get back to ‘the way things were’. Despite the fact that we can talk openly about her condition, (all about death and funerals and estate stuff) and even though the tears often come, so I’m not in denial really, there is part of me that must be unable to comprehend it. Then the 99 boys in my head try to shut the noisy little 100th up and I’m left with that sinking feeling that he might be onto something…

As for the family thing … after many years believing that we (the potential parents) were entirely responsible for family planning based on the suitability of our home, work, climate, timing, environment, finances, etc, I have come to believe that God might be able to handle that too. I cannot advise you and I know you have so much to consider. As a midwife it is my job to tell people how to plan their babies, and even when we were engaged to be married our minister advised us to wait before starting a family, till we knew each other well, and had ‘established’ ourselves) God knows the big picture, what we need and who is ‘meant to be’. I don’t want to preach. I know all the risks, what ifs and sensible, practical, realistic, safe sentiments. I can only say that I have been convicted in the area of trusting God for the timing and number of children. We had to undo our well-advised responsible choice (so I had a reversal of tubal ligation at 42) but things are now as they should be. See Above Rubies.org under articles and stories and family planning.

Serendipity

Comment on March 17th, 2008.

Thinking of our humanity being in the Image of God, and the perfect humanity of Jesus. “I have looked forward to this hour with deep longing…” to the disciples Lk 22:15 NLT. Thankyou for letting your humanity shine through:-)

Tentring

Comment on March 18th, 2008.

The decision to have kids is certainly a big one and very few people I know have ever felt it was the right time, it is usually more of a convenient time. Your situation certainly puts quite a bit more confusion into the issue and anyone can see the negatives of taking the plunge at this time. The other side of the coin is that if you choose to take on that challenge now or in the very near future it would never be a decision that the two of you regret. When all else is said and done our children are for most of us the biggest legacy we leave the world, they remember us and pass our history on to their kids in turn.

Tentring

Comment on March 18th, 2008.

I almost forgot the “bucket list”.

Motorbike,motorbike, motorbike, motorbike, motorbike.

Sharon Murphy

Comment on March 18th, 2008.

Hi Cam , I am an admirer of yours and someone who relates to every thing you are going through. I am a bit older than you but in the cancer world of Myeloma I am relatively young at 54. I love the way you write i love your sence of humour and i love how open and articulate you are.
My life has been like a character in Days of our Lives i have had so many ups and downs .
No body Knows what is around the corner, and they are discovering new drugs and treatments every day and for you and me who have a terminal illness but really do not know how long we are going to live for makes living a little bit more difficult but I think we should live like we are going to live forever and make our decisions as such. I know I dont know you or your wife personally but a child born to the pair of you would have a very stong gene pool of strenght interlect and compassion and love and would only make this world a better place and there would never ever be any regrets for the pair of you no matter which one dies first.
I hope I have not been out of line and if i have made any bad spelling mistakes please excuse me I am a bit roidy myself at the moment some thing you can relate to i am sure.
I pray for you and your wife and just felt the need to comment on this post.

Cam

Comment on March 18th, 2008.

Thanks for your post Sharon. I know exactly how you feel being on the steroids. I thought I was losing my mind the first few times I was on them as I just couldn’t think straight at all. I couldn’t drive, operate machinery etc. Just smokey brained the whole time.

Thank you for your honesty also and kind words. There are many things we are looking forward to and family is one of them. So we will get through each hurdle the best we can and hope for the best that we can also.

Sarah

Comment on March 19th, 2008.

Cam this will sound like the dumbest comment ever but I can’t think of anyone I would prefer to have cancer more – and be able to share your insights on life, God and everything into a web-full of attentive readers. You have the clarity of the prophets. Thank you. God bless you and your beautiful wife. Prayer for you guys is a given.

Sarah :)

Cam

Comment on March 19th, 2008.

Thanks Sarah. Gotta do the the best with what we are given. I wish, instead of cancer, I was in the predicament of being granted a million dollars, and be able to write on the highs and lows of being wealthy. Maybe next time.

Don Gunn

Comment on March 31st, 2008.

I hope you read this Sharon. I found your comment the most profound… “live like we are going to live forever”. After thinking about this for a while, it hit me that as a Christian – with eternity on the horizon, I should certainly be living that way – whether I have a day, week, month, or years to live here on earth.
Looking up makes all on this earth pale like a poor reflection of things to come.
I do understand the importance of all things earth bound though. I want to see my kids grow up, I want to see my freinds and family give their lives to Christ, and I want to spend as much time as possible with my firends and family. These things are all good and worthy things to hope and strive for. But having the eternal perspective (whenever I can grasp it) gives a lot of comfort and eases my worry.
I guess for me, having lost many close friends, I often think of what my last day will be like (if I have time to think about it). On that day, all that will be important is will I be loved by God and welcomed into His kingdom.
In the last words of a good friend who died recently,”I am trusting in the righteousness of Christ”.

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