My paradoxical future

I’ve been struggling a little lately with this thought – how do I envision my future? When I was diagnosed with cancer, I had a clear sense of what I no longer wanted to do. I was blessed with the ability to forget about sunk costs, and just make decisions based upon what I wanted to do during the times when I was not sick or in treatment. Between all the doctors appointments and chemo nausea, I spent time focusing on daily exercise, reading books I wanted to read, and doing things I enjoyed (e.g. camping, sailing).

Now that I’m two years post treatment I find myself struggling to figure out how much I should be planning for the future. I worry about getting old and not have access to healthcare, but then I think, maybe I won’t get old, so why worry. I know that sounds kind of morbid, but there is a reality in it.

I often ask myself “If I only had 5 years to live, is this what I would like to be doing?” (I thought I had written about that before, but I cannot seem to find that post). What I am wondering right now is why is what I’m feeling today different from what I was feeling when I wrote that blog posts (or didn’t write it!).

I’m feeling paradoxical about my future. Part of me is optimistic. I want to plan for a future that has me getting healthier and having the flexibility to do what I want. I want to plan for a future where we have the financial stability necessary to enjoy life without feeling the need to work. And wouldn’t it be nice to know we had access to healthcare as we aged?

Then I find myself wonder, “if I only had 5 years …” and I’m thinking, why I am wasting my time with working (really it is why I am encouraging Scott to keep working), and why don’t we just quit everything and travel and enjoy ourselves. Why not forget that we might have a future, and live life to the fullest right now? Will I end up regretting not taking more time to have fun?

Part of the challenge is, that when you are in that window of “if I only had 5 years…” chances are you are also too sick to enjoy it. The reason you only have five years is because you are sick. And that sick takes away your ability to really do those things that you want to do, so you need to do them while you are healthy enough to do them, but when you are healthy enough to do them your life is so focused on the future.

I recall one of my epiphanies from our time at Commonweal, was the concept of a fantasy future. In many ways, we needed to grieve the loss of a future that was never going to be anyways. That future that I lost was one where we were health and grew old together. It wasn’t a realistic view of the future. I knew that at some time or another something would happen to make one or both of us not healthy. We decided to go on our 16-month bike trip when we did in part because I felt like it was really a “now or never” kind of thing. I didn’t see myself getting healthier in the future. Boy am I glad we did that!

And so, I’m back into that paradoxical thinking. I have a desire to both plan for a long future and I’m feeling the need to seize the day.

For my readers that have deal with critical illness, how do you approach the paradox of planning for a long future and seizing the day?

Feature image CC0 via Pixabay.

  • Becky


  • Um, yeah. Been there. So if you have cancer, are you supposed to be saving for retirement, planning for your future or planning your funeral? I have spent a lot of time thinking about this one. Finally I just gave up on planning and do what I want. I can’t waste too much time on figuring out what might happen down the road and focus on what is happening now. I can only do so much.

  • What a powerful and thought-provoking piece. You’ve experienced and continue to experience the human existential dilemma in a very real, powerful way. One thought would be to trust your hard-earned perspective and instincts each time as you revisit the question during each fork in the road. Perhaps look for a balance of perspectives over time? We are lucky to have you so openly share your experiences so that we can all learn. Take care. Jacqui

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