How cancer speeds up your quest for meaning

Having battled cancer on and off for seven years, our cancer blogger Elana Waldman shares with us the things that keep her up at night.

Woman awake in bed

Photo by Masterfile

As I lie here awake at 4 a.m. I ponder the big life questions. Have I made a difference? Have I left my mark? Did I accomplish anything truly great? I think we all ask these questions at some point or another. I don’t think I am unique that I wonder about the meaning of it all. I think that having cancer may just make the search for the answers to these questions a little more urgent. I don’t know that I will find the answers to these questions. In fact, I don’t know if they can be found. So, what is the point? What are we here for and how do we know if we have accomplished it? I have been asking myself these questions more often lately as I have become less active with my advocacy and fundraising. I can no longer work, I have little energy to take on big projects and often find myself confined to bed for days at a time. So, what am I accomplishing while I am watching TV or playing silly games on the computer? What am I contributing?

Obviously I look at Sydney (my daughter) and I know that I’ve accomplished something wonderful. To brag for just a minute — she is a beautiful, compassionate, funny, empathetic, energetic, loving, smart, and sensitive child. I don’t really take the credit for these things as she has them innately. My husband Mark and I can take credit for teaching her manners and appropriate social behaviour but her nature was there from the day she was born. She is the most wonderful thing I’ve accomplished. But will I be there to see it through? Will I be able to teach her all the things I want to teach her? What kind of an example am I setting now when most of the time she sees me in bed accomplishing very little in the world at large.

Is satisfaction of a well-led life to be found in recognition and celebrity? I don’t think so, although it is an objective barometer for lives touched. And though it can be used as a quantitative judgment, it isn’t really a qualitative one.

So how can we define a life that’s been well-lived? That’s achieved noble ends? That’s made a difference and changed the world in some way for those around us? The big questions – they plague me at night when the world is asleep and quiet around me. I’m sorry, I don’t have the answers yet. But I’m working on it. I’ll be sure to keep you posted if I find them 😉

Click here to read more from Elana Waldman.