I’m just too busy to die right now!

Hobbies help cancer survivors focus on the here and now.

I’ve always enjoyed hobbies. I’ve never been very artsy so my new attraction to painting birdhouses is quite the diversion for me. 

When I initially thought about retiring, I wondered how I would spend my time. At first, I began teaching several classes at the local community college and sought out more classes to fill my time. I love traveling, so I created travel agendas for several trips we had in mind as we began traveling.

Suddenly my world was jolted as I was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. I spent a lot of time trying hard to stay off the internet and preparing all my finances as I assumed I was going to die pretty quickly – according to all the internet articles I tried so hard not to read. My time became consumed with doctor appointments, medical tests, and helping prepare friends and family. 

Now, 3½ years later when I still haven’t died, I needed an outlet to spend my time that helps me stay off Google searches and occupies my mind. All articles about cancer survival suggest that I should stay focused in the here and now.

How do you stay focused in the here and now?    ………  Hobbies!

I love gardening, so my garden looks wonderful. Getting lost in the plants has been an excellent cognitive escape. My friends have kindly dropped off numerous coloring books, puzzles and paint-by-numbers activities. I’m not much of a coloring or sticker book enthusiast. Puzzles work well for me. My husband has joined in with that and the winter produced many puzzles. Thank God my son’s girlfriend loves to finish them for me! I tire of them sometimes halfway through. But they still grab my mind and transport me into the land of relaxed nothingness. 

Books for book club, movies, shows, and coffee with friends;  the old faithfuls of hobbies!

Hiking and looking for wild flowers and birds is emerging as another escape for me. Searching for bird sounds on YouTube and matching them with real birds is actually fun. My dog loves that I take her with me on my hikes and my friends and family enjoy joining me so we can be together. My husband and I have begun to devote an afternoon each week for an escape hike. My brother, who is preparing for longer runs and bike rides, has learned not to wear his flip-flops on my hikes. I don’t go far, but it can be an adventure.

I realized a bucket list event when I trained as a Storm Spotter with the National Weather service here in Wisconsin! It’s so exciting for me when the black clouds roll in. My son and I always dreamed about being spotters together. I made a checklist to carry in my wallet so I get the words right when I call in. Bursting with excitement, I even got to call in with pea-sized hail. That was quite the event!! I walked around the house informing all who would listen that I got to call in a storm event. Quite amazing.

My latest hobby is buying pre-made birdhouses and painting them. My husband puts them on sticks and I’m filling up my garden with brightly painted birdhouses. This past week I woke up early feeling rather miserable. My greatest fear was that I had 2 birdhouses that weren’t going to be finished before I might have to go into the hospital. My God – what was I going to do?? No one had my vision for the birdhouses so they might remain undone. I knew I was rather hooked into birdhouses.

People frequently ask me what I think has kept me alive all this time when medical experts predict I should be dying. Truthfully I have no idea. I’d like it to be something I’ve done, something I could control. Maybe all those prayers that keep pouring in, all my activities related to synergy, my positive attitude, the fabulous caring social supports. Maybe it’s living in the here and now that has developed with all my hobbies.

Personally, right now I think I’m just too busy to die.


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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.

7 thoughts on “I’m just too busy to die right now!”

  1. This is so great! So many people don’t know what to say and here you are in the throes of it with such candor… just amazing.
    Keep doing whatever you’re doing.
    We love you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a wonderful and cheering update–your experience and advice apply to life, in general, it seems, and especially during the shutdown which became so depressing for so many. Thank you as always for your wisdom and inspiration–XO Avery

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Such an insightful and interesting blog. I had no idea you did some storm spotting. What a fun bucket list item! Wish I was there to see your array of birdhouses and join in the painting fun. I do hope you are feeling better and finishing up those two. Sending love your way, and with continual prayers the hobby lists continues! ❤️❤️❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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