Contrary to popular belief — if what you are posting on Facebook and Twitter are to be believed — you are not going to start living every day like it’s your last. You are not going to take the tragic and way-too-soon death of Apple founder Steve Jobs from pancreatic cancer as a sign that compels you to hug your children more and let go of the little stuff, like guilt over chronically unmade beds or those last five pounds.
You are not going to leave your job to go to work for Habitat for
You are not going to compete in a triathlon or quit sugar.
You are not going find God, renew your marriage vows or invent the next
world-changing technology in your garage on weekends.
You are going to be sad, indeed, and you will probably take a closer look at
your mortality. But chances are, you will turn on your iPod and be wistful
today. You will read Steve Jobs’ obituaries, and post that ubiquitous artwork of
his silhouette inside the Apple logo on your Facebook page. You will explain to
the kids what life was like before the iPad, the iPhone and all things “i.” You
will fondly remember your first computer, and perhaps tell a story about how you
once stood in a line that snaked out of the Apple Store — in the rain, of
But you won’t live each day like it’s your last because you can’t. If you
did, nothing would ever get done around your place, your bank account would
quickly drain and your kids would wonder why you’re squeezing them so tightly
You can’t dramatically change the way you look at life until you’ve almost
lost it. It’s that simple. That kind of transformation requires more than a
little introspection over a famous person you never really knew while you’re at
the water cooler at work or along the sidelines at your kid’s soccer game.
Steve Jobs lost his life to cancer at too young an age. Just like my neighbor
Mitch. Like my cousin’s best friend Lamby. Like all of my hospital roommates
from the oncology floor. Like my kid’s middle school classmate, Nicole.
And that makes me sad and mad and worried that it could have been me four
years ago, when I had cancer, too. It doesn’t make me wonder what I’d do if I
knew I didn’t have much time left to live, because I know what I’d do: I’d fight
for my life. And I’d pray to God that I’d get to see my kids grow up. I know
what I’d do, because I’ve done it.
Yet it has taken me four years — so far — to really do the hard work of
figuring out what it meant to arrive at two months from death. It’s taken hard
decisions and scary close-calls to recurrence and falling back into the same old
thinking, over and over until I slap myself upside the head and start over
again. It’s taken therapy and thinking, but most of all, it’s taken living.
And I haven’t quit my job to work for Habitat for Humanity.
I haven’t run a triathlon or quit sugar.
I haven’t drained my bank account or squeezed my kids while sobbing
uncontrollably, because that would alarm them into thinking Mom has cancer
again. And they really just need to get their homework done before soccer
practice or their piano lesson.
So please, don’t tell me you’re going to live any differently because cancer
has struck one of us yet again — this time, someone who changed the world. When
cancer strikes you, however, promise me that you’ll live each day like you have
many, many more of them ahead.