Two hands cupping a flower blossom

Learning to Appreciate Life with All its Ups and Downs

Some days this diagnosis feels like I am sitting on death row, waiting for execution day to arrive. Every time I start a new treatment, it is as if yet another letter to the governor has been written, asking for clemency. Is this medicine going to work? Will I be given a couple more months, maybe even years? Waiting for the results at the end of that first month, is one of the hardest things to do.

During this time, it is difficult to keep pretending all is fine to my children, my husband, my friends, and my neighbors. It is hard to go on with business as usual. It gets harder to do, when you can't be in public, unless you wear your face mask, and rather than being perceived as a healthy woman, it shows something is “wrong” with you. Or, when you try to wash the windows, because keeping normalcy in your life matters to you, and just moving your arms back and forth hurts your bones.

Love, compassion, and kindness

Acting normal, going on with life, as usual, pretending all is okay, is of course also where the blessing lies. You speak to the guy at the cash register at your local CVS store, a place they now know you all too well, because you have yet another prescription to fill. He tells you he just lost his friend to a massive heart attack. You see his eyes well up with tears, and you give him a hug, and tell him how sorry you are. He says the man was very overweight, and did not play it smart in life. You tell him you did, and look at you.

We both decide you just never know what life can bring us, and it is best to make the most out of every day. Who we love, and who cares about us, that is what makes this journey so very worth living! We do not understand why, when people seem to have it so good as compared to the majority in the world, they are "choosing" outrage, bitterness and hate, over love, compassion and tolerance.

Finding the perfect blossom

Oh the things a terminal illness teaches us. Would it not be nice if we could apply these things without first being hit with the kind of diagnosis I was. In the movie, Last Samurai, starring Tom Cruise as Captain Nathan Algren, Katsumoto, leader of the Samurai, always looks for the perfect blossom, yet he is unable to find it.

When, at the Battle of Thermopylae, Katsumoto is badly wounded, and chooses to end his life as part of his tradition and for his honor, Algren helps him with his final request. Just moments before his death, Katsumoto looks up and sees the blossoms, realizing in that moment, that they were perfect all along.

A perfectly flawed life

Why did I bring this movie, which I have seen dozens of times, and touches me deeply every single time, up? Because we too are always searching for that best moment, that best job, best relationship, not realizing that, when the end beckons us, we will likely see that it was all ... perfect ... just the way it was! That is the difference I think, in the way I have lived my life these past years, vs how I see so many people struggle.

It is not that my life is any better than theirs. Let’s face it, likely far from it, with this death sentence lurking around not only my life but my children's and husband’s life as well. When I almost died, when I wanted to die, I got to see that the life I had, with all its flaws, was perfect in ways I had failed to see before, and that my friends, is why you see me with a smile, despite the pain, despite the fact that cancer has yet again reared its ugly head.

Hope & Love

Editor's Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on October 23, 2019, Cherie Rineker passed away. We are honored that Cherie shared her experiences with our community and beyond. She will be deeply missed.

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