Bright Candles

The rather weird knowledge that your life has a closer end date than you thought may help some prepare. For me, preparing has been calming. I did organize my finances. I cleaned out some closets, but truthfully that bores me so much, I always quit. I organize things so it looks less messy, but don’t throw out much. What if I need this 40 year old scarf??

I’ve also had some time to think about my life without having to wait for that sudden movie reel flashback people describe at a near-death experience. As Frank Sinatra said – I’ve had my ups and downs and did it my way. No serious incidents! 

My favorite memories of my life certainly revolve around family, friends and those simple moments.

But, here’s what I want to leave behind. Where I found the most joy in my life was the time I spent giving to others. Volunteering.

I began volunteering as a child, guided by Martha Manring, my parenting role model, mother of one of my dear friends. Molly and I played with a young boy with cerebral palsy helping him exercise, socialize and giving his Mom a break. Not a big deal for me at the time. But it started my path.

I became a hospital volunteer, a Candy Striper. I think I just liked the uniform. I began in the basement of the hospital filing lab slips, ALONE for hours. Didn’t work well for me – I crave social interaction. They transferred me to delivering flowers, which also didn’t work well. I was noticeably terrorized by older very ill patients. Quickly they moved me to the snack bar where I served hospital staff food. I found my place in life! I also learned the importance of volunteering within your comfort zone!

My volunteering varied: phone hotlines, schools, traveling to New Orleans with high school students and teachers for Katrina clean-up, bringing van loads of students to work Habitat in Iowa, political mail drops, Eucharistic minister, cleaning kitchens at Ronald McDonald House, ushering plays, Tosa Farmers Market board, and so on. I gained more than I gave at each volunteer opportunity.  I made a lot of good friends too!

My favorite, by far, was picking up newborn babies at area hospitals and providing a safe home for each until an adoption plan was made or they returned to their birth parent.  The reward for my whole family outweighed the painful lack of sleep! I still keep each baby in my heart. 

Pope Francis recently said “Each and everyone of us can become a bright candle, a reminder that light can overcome darkness”. I hope that when people think about me, they remember how much I loved giving to others. I hope that inspires all of you to think of ways you could reach out and become a bright candle somewhere in your own world. 

Right now, during this pandemic, we are all trying to find ways to reach out. So many people must have me on their list. And I’m doing okay. The new oral chemo does make me feel that when Scotty beamed me up, I arrived with my molecules reorganized in a slightly painful weird pattern. But I’m surviving and still waiting to find out if this is working. Not sure, but hoping. My white count has dropped so I’m staying safely at home. But not feeling alone, thanks to all the bright candles in my life.

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This is my blog about living my life with Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer—End stage. I joked about writing this imaginary blog when I spent a year on a treatment that allowed me only 10 days to feel well enough to live a fairly normal life. (Actually normal doesn’t even really exist for me anymore!) To earn those good days, I spent the previous 10 days living in post-chemo treatment physical hell – that also became normal in a perverse way. I’m also writing to honor those who are diagnosed with Stage Four Pancreatic Cancer. You might live longer than you expect and I want you to have someone who tells you what that’s like. There aren’t many role models for people with this because, well, they’re usually gone. So, this is for you. Maybe your journey will be similar to mine. Actually, it will probably be very different because “everyone is different.” Even still, maybe this will still be a bit of a guide.

2 thoughts on “Bright Candles”

  1. This time of isolation for all of us (I hope) has given us time to re-evaluate our lives, our priorities, and our values. Clearly you can reflect on all the ways you have impacted our community and be proud & satisfied. Even in wtitting your blog you are bright candle for us. You still face life full on looking for the good & being thankful, despite your diagnosis and the rough path of treatment. I thank my lucky stars you have been my friend and bright candle for so long. Thank you for reminding us all to live a life that we are proud of.

    Liked by 1 person

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