Livin’ or Dyin’

 

 

Image result for cancer hat with braids

My neighbor had a heart attack. It had happened at the gym, right there in the locker room. People acted quickly, gave him CPR and the ambulance showed up just a couple of minutes later. 

He had surgery the same day and came home just three days later. I just happen to know about it because we live in the house next door. I am the chosen one, who has an eye on the house when they are not around.

He just retired last year, had been working around the house and in the yard ever since. Even a big heart like yours needs a break now and then, the card we gave him read.

He is so fortunate. He is alive and can have a very long life if he just makes small adjustments to his lifestyle. “I can’t have fried food anymore,” he complained, “They don’t allow me to drive right now and I have to go to cardiac rehab,” he went on.” He has to take a pill for the rest of his life; he doesn’t like that either. He acts like his life is already over.

His wife is not helping either. She is convinced she will be next. “We are married since 40 years and eat the same,” that’s the argument behind her logic. “Life is not that simple,” I try to point out, but don’t get too far with it.

I didn’t say too much, just stood there and listened to them when we met in the driveway. So fortunate and he doesn’t see it, I thought to myself.

Across the street, from us, there lives my friend and neighbor. She is battling stage IV pancreatic cancer since last year. The final stage, her cancer is inoperable, there is nothing they can do. The pain is under control with weekly chemotherapies. “I will have chemo for the rest of my life,” she explained and showed me her newest, fancy head creation. A silly little head that her daughter knitted for her. It has fake braids attached on each side. Something they saw in a magazine and I can’t help but laugh when I see her wearing it. She looks like a Viking woman. At home, she doesn’t hide her bald head, wears it with pride like so many others. Perhaps she is a Viking woman after all.

She is happy and is grateful for all the extra time this chemotherapy treatment will give her. “All our lives we wonder how we will die,” she explains, “I know already and still have time left,” she finishes her sentence. She is a nurse, we don’t have to pretend. Her cancer is fatal, the outcome is known. The chemo is working, her tumor is not growing but there is not much hope.

She is in a good mood, has “only” one or two bad days a week and considers herself very blessed. Her laughter and her spirit are contagious, and I wish it would spread out a little further, just far enough to reach my other neighbor – the gentleman who complains so much about his new lifestyle.

Two people in their early 60’s, both with serious health issues. One is lucky to be alive and can’t see it. He complaints any chance he gets and feels miserable. The other one knows she might be dying soon, but refuses to let it beat her down.

I am the fortunate one in the middle. Once again life gives me a lesson for free, and I am watching with great interest. I watch and learn; I hope I do.

There is a time for living, and there is a time for dying, we should not start dying when life is still worth living. That’s at least what I believe, that’s what life has taught me so far.

As for my next door neighbor. I hope he will wake up soon and will realize how fortunate he is. I wish I could make him see what I see.

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30 thoughts on “Livin’ or Dyin’

  1. I like the slogan, get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’. How frustrating for you to watch and be unable to help change your neighbour’s attitude. Words never work, alas. But fear and retreat after a heart attack is common, I believe. Two of my friends belong to post-cardiac walking groups set up to break the spiral. But I imagine you do help as a role model to many.

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  2. Very interesting comparison. it sounds like your neighbour may have been looking forward to eating his way through retirement – and now he can’t. He sort of missed the crucial bit that he still has a retirement. In my last years at work I was testing (for research purposes) men and women with early-onset dementias. So often they were half of a couple approaching retirement after a lifetime at work, only to face one being a carer and the other with a particularly unpleasant brain disease. I so admire the courage of your other neighbour and I LOVE her viking headgear (I bet the daughter could make a commercial success of that).

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    • I love the Viking headgear as well. They found it on Pinterest, so I assume there is already a market for it.

      My friend and neighbor is a wonderful person. I admire the grace she shows right now and I can just wish for the same one day in my life.

      “He still has a retirement.” I wish I could make him read that. Hopefully his attitude will change over time.

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  3. Great post! I agree, I hope your neighbor does realize how lucky he is. Perhaps, if he excepts the changes now, in a decade he’ll wonder how he ever ate that nasty fried stuff in the first place….

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  4. I agree with the above comments..knowing your health status and acting on it in a positive way can only assist those around you who have to watch and support you in every way they can, the person who feels defeated at the first hurdle makes it hard not just for themselves but for those around them as you’ve witnessed in the response of the man’s wife. Heart attacks can happen at any time, life attacks can happen at every second of the day.

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  5. Sadly you can’t change an ATTITUDE, all you can do is listen. Sometimes that’s a very rare gift. Maybe when the cancer ridden lady dies, this guy will finally grasp the meaning of life, what with her being his neighbor and such, but I wouldn’t bet on it. And some people just enjoy crabbing. What a sad situation for him and how glorious for YOU to know the lady!

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  6. This post reminds me of the expression “it’s not what happens to you in life that matters, but how you react to it”.

    You didn’t mention how long ago the heart attack occurred. If it was relatively recent, he may still be in a stage of shocked *mourning*. I went through it with Gilles after each of his cycling accidents. Hopefully this is just a stage he’s going through in order to process this very dramatic life-changing event.
    On the other hand, if it’s been a while ….

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  7. This is a great post. I am guilty of knowing sometimes I should have a different spirit, and yet I do not. Perhaps he needs some encouragement? A gentle prompting that he survived, and has much to be thankful for.

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