Last Wednesday I had a follow-up visit with my oncologist during which he gave me a prescription for a drug I must take daily for the next five years. He also ordered checkups every three months for the next year, every six months for two years after that, and annually for the rest of my life, however long that may be.
My doctors at Moffitt said I should have at least 10 years, and I could live twice that, maybe even longer. But there are no guarantees. The cancer could be back in one year, or it could be growing microscopically even now. We just don't know.
And there's the million-dollar question. How long will it be before the beast reemerges? Yet, for me, even that is not the real question. The real unknown I must grapple with now is what do I do with the time I have left?
I don't want to spend my life striving to extend it, worrying about my health. I have spent the last eight months consumed with my body and efforts to make it well. And frankly, I'm sick of it.
I'm ready to get back to doing something meaningful. I can't spend my life whiling away time as if I'm going to live forever. I'm not. I've had a wrenching awakening to the fact that life is short, and always was.
So now, how do I decide what's worth my time and what isn't? How do I weigh all the things I was doing before my illness and choose which ones to take up again? I can't do them all, especially at first. I'm just not strong enough.
In truth, I don't think I will ever go back to some of the things that ate up my time pre-cancer. Many of them just seem silly now, or boring, or too time consuming to deserve any of the precious hours of hard-fought second wind I've been granted. So I'm taking a close look at all I used to do and asking God to show me what's really worth my time now.
One thing I know I want to do is leave a legacy for my children and grandchildren. I want them to know assuredly what kind of person I was - what I believed in and why - whether I live long enough for them to have actual memories of me or not. I don't mean to be morbid, but there's nothing like coming face to face with one's own mortality to truly bring into focus what life is all about.
It's about leaving a mark on the world in some way, however small, that will positively change eternity. Some would say I've done that by producing three children, of whom I am forever proud. But is that enough? Almost anyone can have a child; bringing them into the world, is not what counts. My life only has meaning if I spend it making the world a better place, and teaching my progeny to do the same. That is as close to eternal significance as one life can claim.
I still love watching football, reading good novels, and playing cards or dominoes with friends and family. I know I will continue to do those things but I won't live for them. I need a higher purpose.
That's where writing comes in. I want my life and my work to point people to Jesus Christ. He carried me through the darkest hours of my illness. If I can share his love with a hurting world, I will rest assured my life has meaning, no matter how long or short it turns out to be.