In one of the comments to my post The Suggestion Box in a Stage 4 prostate cancer support group, a friend used the expression in the above graphic. I had never heard it before, and I found it to be very beautiful and profound. She and her husband, who is Stage 4, are choosing to try to add as much life to their days as they can, rather than trying to add as many days to his life as they can. This is my philosophy as well. Here is part of her comment that so moved me:
Our choice has been quality of life and normality in daily living. And soon I will be a widow. But such a love story we’ve had, and such beautiful kids… And we strongly feel it’s better to have much life in your days rather than days in your life! It’s so sad, but as you say: we’re all going to die!
Needless to say, I found her comment very inspirational. I asked her if I could use it, and she said of course I can. So here we are.
The expression seems to have originated with Adlai Stevenson, who said, “It is not the years in your life, but the life in your years that counts.” Same concept. I googled the phrase, and found that there’s even a Facebook page dedicated to the life in our days concept. So though the expression was new to me, it seems to have been around a while, and for good reason. It’s an excellent philosophy.
Last Saturday, another friend posted on Facebook that, when cancer “finishes” him – his word – his life will come down to two dates and a dash. 1958-20whatever. And he’s making the most of the dash. This isn’t the first time Trevor has written something that spoke to me, nor do I expect it to be the last. It seems to me that making the most of the dash and adding life to our days are pretty much the same thing. And that’s what my wife and I are trying to do. Make the most of the dash. Add life to our days rather than days to my life.
This will become much easier for us now that I’m fully retired as of tomorrow, Thursday, June 1st. We’ll be free to focus on this next phase of our life together, however long or short that may be. I’m so excited.
The first major event after my retirement is that my wife and I will have our 40th anniversary pictures taken. This is a tradition we’ve had every five years since we got married in 1977. My wife is very artistic, and usually has a clear concept of the types of photos she wants, right down to the background and the decorative setting in which the pictures are taken.
One of my goals has been to look good for these pictures. That’s one reason I’ve been so concerned about losing weight. I don’t want to be Gaunt Cancer Guy during that photo shoot. Having one more set of pictures of us together that we can display in our home, and add to our anniversary pictures gallery is very important to both of us. It’s vital to me that she have those pictures when I’m no longer here. Getting them taken is a way of adding life to our days.
A few days later, there’s what I’m calling Mark’s Excellent Road Trip. On June 7th, I begin driving from my home in Denver, Colorado, to the home of friends in Mesa, Arizona, to be there for a benefit concert for him. I’ll stop over in Albuquerque, New Mexico both going and coming, and I intend to blog at each stop. I’m looking forward to this solo road trip very much, and to writing about it just as much. It will tax my endurance, and recovery days are built in so I don’t overextend myself. It’s awesome to be able to do that because retirement frees up my schedule so much.
It would be easy for me to say a trip like that is too much for me. But that wouldn’t be adding life to my days. It wouldn’t be making the most of the dash.
At the end of July, we’ll celebrate that 40th wedding anniversary with the biggest party we’ve ever thrown, and we’ve thrown some doozies. We’ll have three bands, and a lot of friends, food, and fun. It will be a night we’ll always remember. Life in our days. Making the most of the dash.
If you’ve been following this blog, you know that I have lots more to inspire me and keep me busy for the rest of this year. From a summer show with the rock band school for kids to continuing the process of getting my gourmet chocolate ice cream on the market to turning this blog into a book. Retirement does not mean inactivity, as any retired person can tell you. Most of the retired people I know say they have no idea how they ever found the time to work!
Another priority that I’ve mentioned many times is spending as much time with loved ones as I can. I went to a rock show Saturday night that I would not have attended under normal circumstances, even though I knew I’d enjoy the concert. But it was getting some time to hang with one of my best friends, who was the promoter for the show, that made me so excited to go. And I did enjoy the concert very much. Both bands were great, and the time spent with my friend was even better. Afterwards, he stayed over at our house, and he and I stayed up and talked until after 1:00 AM. Unheard of in my current condition. But it was precious time. Time with loved ones is the best way to add life to my days.
And oh yes, I have the next PSA test coming in June, and the subsequent consultation that will determine a lot, in terms of my prognosis and treatment. But I’m not focusing on that. I’ll certainly report on it. That’s what this blog is for. But I won’t let that test rob me of the joy I’ll receive from any of the above activities. In fact, the worse the prognosis, the more we’re determined to make the most of the dash. To add life to our days, rather than trying to add days to my life.
As I said in my last post, my wife and I are on the same page with all of this, which I count as a tremendous blessing. We agree in our attitudes towards treatment, and accept the reality of my mortality. My wife is a rock. She’s taken all of this news as well as any wife could. We don’t know how many days we have left together, but we’re going to put as much life in them as we can. We’re especially focused on doing as many fun things together as we can while I still feel good enough to do those things. We don’t have the money to travel the world or complete our bucket list (Hers: spend a month in Tuscany, Mine: go to MorseFest this September) but there’s plenty we can do together right here that will fill our days and make memories. I’m looking forward to it very much.
Often, when a store has an item on sale, they’ll use the phrase For A Limited Time Only. We are all on this planet for a limited time only. None of us knows how many days we have. That’s why it’s so important to make the most of the dash. Because what matters most is not the amount of days in our life, but the amount of life in our days. I wish I hadn’t had to learn that from a Stage 4 prostate cancer support group, but I’m glad I finally did. #waroncancer #bearingwitness
It is not the years in your life but the life in your years that counts.
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