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What I learned from dying; How to live intentionally

I learned two lessons this week in two very different ways. First, I learned that when faced with a dire situation like stage 4 cancer, I must live very intentionally and choose each day – and each moment – to not let it overwhelm me. Second, I learned that when dry heaving into a trash can in the middle of the night, it’s nice if it’s the right size.

When you haven’t had what can reasonably count as a “good day” in weeks, it makes it difficult to concentrate on things like writing this column, but it’s also easy to get swept away by the terrible tide and only see the bad that’s right in front of your face.

I began to slip a little a couple of weeks ago and it was brought on by an innocuous podcast about a survivor of esophageal cancer, who happened to mention the 5 percent survival rate for those of us with it. I had purposely not sought out information about that but hearing that I shouldn’t be here within the next five years hit me pretty hard and sort of emphasized what exactly I was facing, whereas before I’d been pretty happily ignorant.

Just last night I had a very bad dream where I was preparing for a round of chemotherapy and a nurse walked in, waved her arms and said my body was shutting down. She told me to go get whatever I needed from my house because I’d likely never see it again.

Although that was just a dream it was based enough in reality and in my real fears that I woke up desperate to offset the horrible feeling it left me with. I sought out the Bible and also read a short message by a pastor who’d come through cancer himself. It helped and it helped a lot.

That’s when I realized I absolutely have to seek out the positive in life because it doesn’t always just show up.

But although the good and the positive aren’t always obvious, they’re always there. I have people who care for me and are pulling for me; they’re setting up fundraisers and calling for prayers.

I am loved.

The other lesson I learned might not apply to everyone, but to those who are dry heaving several times a night each night, choosing the right trash can is crucial.

First, I learned the hard way months ago that a can that’s too small can lead to blowback. Although I haven’t eaten anything through my mouth in months and I’m mostly spitting up bile, you don’t want it coming back at you.

But a trash can that’s too large can be unwieldy and hard to maneuver when the time comes to need it. Plus if it’s serving a second purpose as a kitchen trash can or something it might have other things in it that aren’t exactly conducive to stopping nausea.

The can I have beside the bed is just about the right size. It’s something like 24 inches tall and 18 inches wide, which is plenty big to hold spit-up, but also trash if you need it. I also happen to like that it’s just wide enough that my whole face fits inside it if I so happen to want to do that just to change things up.

I envision a day when I’m not using my trash can nightly, but until then I might as well do it the best I can.

Until then, good things are here and more is coming if you just look for it.

By Dave Taylor

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