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What’s Worth Living For?

Messier Family Photo 2008

 Read the Afterword by Resident Editor, Jonathan Klein, MD

 

by Frédéric Messier, caregiver and supporter

My wife Weifun and I had several good conversations around life and values after she was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour at age 28, a mere 4 months after the birth of our baby-boy.  ‘What’s worth living for?’ was a pivotal question that accompanied us at nearly every turn.  Despite appearances, we were quickly forced to think just what it was that was worth doing on a daily basis, beyond the obvious (i.e. raising a child).

Almost right upon diagnosis, Weifun’s world became smaller as a result of being confined to a new life of medical treatments and physical rehabilitation.  Life: redefined.  Options: fewer.  Scope: narrower. Frustration: (much) higher.

Satisfaction?  Hmmm…

Contemplating the best-case scenario, we were looking forward to a long life of birthdays, anniversaries, meaningful work and parenting.  Every day, small victories – over rehab, fatigue, daily activities – compounded into one another, paving the way towards the goal of a long, healthy and purposeful life.  At many junctures, this felt absolutely awesome.

Yet cancer forced us to consider the worst-case scenario.  What if… things went south?  What long-term impact could Weifun still have on our son?  On this world?  On the lives of others around her? Shouldn’t this, too, be a part of everyday life, just in case?

Thus came a resolve to live every day in a way that she could be proud of.  Beneficial to both herself and others.  A way that would be satisfying in its own right, and create a meaningful legacy which could outlive her in the worst case scenario.

The result was a string of gestures, big and small, that she tried to do every day, which felt purposeful and meaningful.  The end result was more satisfaction for herself, and a number of legacy items that she could be proud of.

Weifun became adept at appreciating the little things in life.  Feeding her son.  Eating a cookie. Watching TV in bed.  The company of friends.  Grocery shopping.  Manicures.  Haircuts.   The dollar store.

She also made a point of starting to build a small legacy which would outlive her.  We shot biographical DVDs of her telling her life story, for her son to watch.  We openly discussed the values we should raise him by.  She took part in a number of community activities.  She climbed Signal Hill in St. John’s Newfoundland during a fundraising walk for young adults with cancer and inspired others to meet a variety of challenges.

All in all, she tried to lead by example.  Not only in larger symbolic gestures, but through the more mundane and frustrating daily struggles that cancer put her through.

Now, although she lost her fight with cancer in May 2010, I am still immensely proud of her for the impact that she had on everyone around her, including our son and I. And I remind myself daily that little gestures matter, and that no matter what, 365 little gestures a year can make a significant difference around us.

So my point here is to also raise the question:  Do we give ourselves enough credit for the stuff we do? The small daily gestures?  The small things we do for others, and ourselves?  The small victories which, added up, should make us so proud and make life worth living?

Every day, there is a reason to be happy.  And proud.  There is a chance to do something you truly believe in.  An opportunity to impact someone else.  A way to make a difference in your world.

So here’s my question:  What’s worth living for?  Today.  For you.

 

This entry was posted in all, Caregivers, Caring for Someone with Cancer, Living with Cancer, Young Adults and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to What’s Worth Living For?

  1. Geoff Eaton says:

    Fred, you are awesome and have provided me with the opportunity to do my small daily gesture today, which is forwarding your message to Karen (my wife).

    This will likely create several other opportunities for us to talk about your question. I’ll keep you posted on our answers.

    Geoff

  2. Sheila Evans says:

    I have never met you, Frederic, or your wonderful wife, Weifun. However, you have made a positive impact on me today after reading your heartfelt story. Thanks so much for the reminder of the importance of the small daily gestures and appreciating each day.

  3. Shari says:

    Wow…so I am not alone!
    First diagnosed with brain cancer just 7 months as a newlywed..I have to say I just gave up. It has taken me some time to really come around I guess you could say. All the meds, the treatments and shock took it’s toll on me and I surrendered to the heinousness of cancer. I am trying to pull myself up out of the rut that I am in.
    I want you to know that your blog helped me tremendously!

    Shari

  4. Marie-Line Carmel says:

    I try to choose values and actions that have a community aim and not only an individual aim. I hope that those choices will inspire my children and (maybe) other people. Some of my family members who have already passed away still inspire me, like my grandmother who believed in women’s rights and worked all her life, or my brother who was accepting everyone for who he was.
    Also, the rising sun is worth living, the first winter snow, my children’s smile, a good meal, etc

  5. Bonnie says:

    Wonderful post, Fred, thank you. Sending love and light to you, your son, and Weifun …

  6. Bev says:

    thank you for sharing. I have been recently diagnosed with brain cancer. We need to share & support each other along this road. Life is worth living. The Lord gives us 1 day at a time. Rejoice & be glad in it.
    Bev

  7. Pam Baumgartner says:

    I knew and adored Weifun when she was my student in high school. She left a mark on so many she touched back then. My husband recently died on his way to work last April. I miss him every day and every day I am reminded to be honest, breathe and lfeel the moment.

  8. I really like your story, Fred, and hope that the good memories that you shared with Weifun will always give you strength. When I wrote the lyrics for our CD called “The Colour’s Coming Back” to help people whose lives were touched by cancer, I also found other courageous people like yourself who shared their stories. I was hoping that our songs would encourage as many people as possible. If you would like to listen to some of the songs you can check out the CD page on Facebook. Meanwhile take care and be well.

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