“No one can confidently say that he will still be living tomorrow.” – Euripides
A friend has been diagnosed with cancer. He was one of the most unlikely people to have got this disease as he is otherwise very healthy, he doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke has a healthy diet, is relatively fit and has no family history of the disease. The only thing the doctor could say about it was that he must have been one of those unlucky “random” cases where the tumour just turned up out of the blue. This is precious little consolation for him. However, the good news is that the cancer was diagnosed in its early stages so fortunately, treatment is likely to be effective, with everyone hoping for a complete and utter cure.
We take our health for granted and it is commonly enough said in this context that we don’t appreciate something until we lose it. So it was with my friend. One moment life was good, with his routine of work, family, recreational activities, planning for the coming holidays, Christmas, and the next moment a barrage of tests, admission into hospital and surgery. The whole world seemed to turn upside down in an instant. Add to that the dreaded word “cancer” that most people still view as a death sentence, and the sum of this is a shock to the system, a major upset in the equilibrium of a balanced life.
Such cases that challenge our worldview and overturn our place within the orderly pattern of our existence, can prove to be catalytic for a major reassessment of our priorities, our values, our plans and our objectives. Confronted with a very real and immediate image of our mortality we are obliged to think deep and hard about what is important and what is unimportant. We divest ourselves of illusions and we look at life as a precious, finite commodity, which suddenly seems to be running out, fast. Our possessions, the money in the bank, the plans for next year, for our retirement, for tomorrow even, are all suddenly jettisoned while we try and keep the little boat of our life afloat just for a little bit longer amidst the stormy seas of our failing health.
The people we love assume an overwhelming importance at times like these. The support and affection that we usually may take for granted become abruptly a vital caring force. The comfort and sustenance these loved ones provide become an essential part of our ability to cope with the challenges that we need to deal with. Our family and friends become our prop that underpin our efforts, they are the buttresses that provide the strength for us to overcome our trials.
It is difficult for someone healthy and happy to imagine the predicament that my friend has found himself in. It is hard to think that such a terrible turn of events should happen to us. Whenever we think of ourselves, we think we are invincible, immortal, all-powerful, somehow immune from all the horrible things that always happen to others. It is a humbling and chastening experience when it does indeed happen to us. No amount of preparation or forethought can make us adequately ready for the reality of the actual experience. It is a perspective that is observed only from the one, unique position. That of the actual person who is experiencing the situation first-hand. It is a condition where the observed becomes the observer and vice-versa.
We all know that death is an inescapable certainty that all of us will experience sooner or later. We live our life for the most part ignoring this inevitable ending, or some of us may shun all thoughts of it because we fear it. Acceptance of this unavoidable eventuality can allow us to live life more fully and more productively. Entertaining the idea that our own death could occur tomorrow, next week, next month can help us put our life in perspective and help us give due importance to those who really matter most in our life.
I am sure that readers of this will join me in wishing my friend all the best, with a speedy and complete recovery.