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Sand Through an Hourglass

I was sitting in the oncology clinic last week and on the TV I heard, “Like sand through an hourglass these are the times of our lives;” the familiar intro of the long running soap opera “Days of Our Lives.” It made me think about time and how quickly it passes.

When we’re young, the sand is thick and it moves through the hourglass at a sluggish pace. There’s the excruciating wait to hit those life milestones; your first solo drive when you get your driver’s license or turning 21 so you can have your first legal beer. However, as you age, every year it seems like the grains metaphorically filter through that hourglass even more swiftly than the year previous.

The speed appears to increase exponentially when you are diagnosed with an incurable, chronic, progressive cancer. If you look close enough you can almost see the top of the hourglass empty…time is running out in your hourglass.

Planning to live to 100

When I was first diagnosed with polycythemia vera (PV), my hematologist pulled out a chart and said according to this you will probably live around 17 more years. At the time, I was in my mid-50s so he added, you’ll likely reach your late 70s which is pretty close to a normal lifespan. Normal? To who? I was planning to live to 100! I had lots of questions following that appointment…did he mean 17 years from today? Or from my diagnosis? Or from when I likely developed PV? I personally though it was ludicrous to determine your longevity from a statistical analysis. Everyone’s health is different and there are many extenuating circumstances that could alter your time on this earth.

Hourglasses were a means to tell time in ancient days. Although they aren’t commonly used today, they can actually still be purchased at The only time I recall using an hourglass was playing board games.

I recently learned a new word – ephemerality – which means a state or quality lasting for a short time. I equate this to life.1 No one really knows how long they really have on this earth, as life is fleeting. Having cancer tends to make you think of your mortality.

How long do I have?

I know with a PV diagnosis, my chances of a blood clot, a heart attack or stroke are significantly greater. I’m also aware that there is an approximate 10% chance that my PV will transform into an even more critical myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN) called myelofibrosis and a slightly smaller chance it will morph into acute myeloid leukemia. On top of the PV, I also have had breast cancer with a CHEK2 mutation. This means statistically I have about a 30% chance of the cancer returning or metastasizing. It also increases my risk of other types of cancer; colon, kidney and thyroid.2

It’s easy to stress out with all this information, and I’d be lying if I said I haven’t in the past. However, instead of continually dwelling on it, I choose to move forward and continue to live each day to the fullest. I am doing all I can to slow the sieving sand in my hourglass so I can live to 100!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Ephemeral. Merrian Webster Dictionary. Available at
  2. What you should know about CHEK2 mutations. UT Southwestern. Available at


  • Ann Harper moderator
    1 month ago

    @deb wesloh would love to hear what you are doing to slow the sands of time. Like you I was given an expiration date and I’ve surpassed it and…I’m still in watch and wait mode. I’ve changed many things in my life and am planning on doing whatever it takes to live a long and healthy life.

  • Deb Wesloh moderator author
    4 weeks ago

    I’m trying hard to stay active. Sometimes it is really hard to do as I struggle some days just to get out of bed. But I think it’s paying off. I feel pretty good most of the time and I feel like I’m as healthy as I can be for someone that has cancer.

  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator
    4 weeks ago

    that is good news! Staying active for many of us can be a trial, but little strides make a huge difference. Keep at it. Best!

  • Ronni Gordon moderator
    1 month ago

    I agree that it’s ludicrous to pinpoint your longevity like that! Not helpful at all! It’s definitely normal to stress out but good for you for trying to stay present.

  • Deb Wesloh moderator author
    1 month ago

    Yes, definitely. A chart doesn’t factor in a lot of things. I do plan to live for many more years!

  • Susan Gonsalves moderator
    1 month ago

    @Deb Wesloh Your article is really thought provoking and thanks for the new word. I don’t think any of us knows exactly how many years we have left; so many factors can play into it. Lately, my thought process has me concentrating on short-term goals and not stressing out about the future as much. Seems to help.

  • Deb Wesloh moderator author
    1 month ago

    Thanks for the kind words! Definitely focus on short term goals, but I have some long term ones that I plan to keep too.

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