Redwoods Reflections

Part of my current life is focusing on the here and now.  Living in the moment.  This is not a bad way to live life.  Yesterdays are just that… yesterdays – fixed in time, unchangeable – never to return.  Tomorrows are also just that… tomorrows – unknown – filled with possibilities but never guaranteed.  None of us knows if we will be here tomorrow.

In many ways I have appreciated living in the here and now.  It focuses you.  It teaches you in very tangible ways to appreciate every single day.  I can honestly say that every single day something interesting and somehow meaningful happens in my life.  “Meaningful” in terms of something which impacts me and often those around me in a significant way.  I don’t believe I am anything special in this regard – I think this statement is true of everyone.  It just sometimes requires the “blinders” to come off via something like a cancer diagnosis for you to see these everyday meaningful interactions and not be distracted by the business of everyday life.

Living in the here and now, I don’t actively long for the past. I also don’t spend a lot of time thinking too far distant into the future.  I’m doing my best to treat my cancer and I am working hard towards its cure but I now focus on appreciating what happens daily.

The normally separate time-space of past, current & future came crashing together for me during of all things, breakfast this morning.  Facebook has a feature called “See Your Memories” which pulls up photos you posted in the past – to remind you where you were and what you were thinking about on this exact date in previous years.  Most of the time these pop up they are kind of fun – a light-hearted trip down memory lane.  Today’s was different for me.

Redwood Eleni_2012-04

April 25, 2012

This is the picture which was at the top of my Facebook newsfeed this morning.  It is a picture from a family trip to the Redwood Forest of Mendocino County exactly 4 years ago today.  Eleni was a little past her first birthday.  The entire family was enjoying the forest together.  I have always loved forests ever since I was a small kid (hint look at the top of this blog!).  Living in a city for job reasons, I looked forward to the opportunity to bring our small daughters (Amelie was  4 1/2 at the time) to the forest to teach them to appreciate the peace and beauty (and fun!) they offer.  I even dreamed of us maybe finding a way to move there.  This was the first trip to the forest that Eleni was more than a little baby – the first time she could really begin to experience it.  Moving there was a longshot goal but I was certainly looking forward to the girls experiencing the forest and non-city life as often as possible.

This photo was taken less than 6 weeks before my surprise CRC diagnosis.  Our last Family trip “before”.  In cancer, there is always a before and after.  

It reminded me of so many things, captured in a single image frozen in time.  How little Eleni was when I was first diagnosed.  So little, she has no memory of “before”.  A glimpse of a more carefree family life before everything changed in an instant.  Memory of a time with simpler goals in life.  This brought a rush of emotions this morning that hit like a brick.

Seeing it, I stopped living in the moment.  I longed for the past. A past that like all pasts, can never be returned to.

As the day continued, my mood slowly turned around. With the help of others, I began to focus on all the incredible memories that I have had since this picture was taken.

Our lives changed in an instant less than 6 weeks after this picture was taken but… this picture was not the end of a story filled with good Father-Daughter memories… it was the beginning of one that has been generating memories for an incredible 4 years now ever since it was taken.

Yes, I have Stage IV CRC.  Yes, I am undergoing biweekly chemo.  But do you know how I spent yesterday afternoon?  Maybe not in a forest – but I spent it teaching my now 5 1/2 year old daughter how to play soccer – just the two of us – generating the exact same type of good Father-Daughter bonding I was enjoying walking through that pre-cancer forest on April 25, 2012.  Eleni, now approaching kindergarten, had a blast yesterday.  Father-Daughter memories have and will continue to be made. Cancer… healthy… forest… city… In the big scheme of things, the details really don’t matter.

Surrounded by the business of Life, your daily interactions & memories with loved ones are probably meaningful in more ways than you realize.  I had to temporarily long for my past this morning to remember the joys I have in my present. All of this via one random snapshot from 4 years ago today.

14 Comments on “Redwoods Reflections

  1. Thank you Tom for sharing this memory. It took Jim and I two years into his cancer journey to finally realize that we should be “making” more meaningful memories instead of just living day-to-day with cancer shadowing us every day. Last summer we started doing things like going on a whale watching cruise and going out-to-dinner more often like we did before cancer. For me, this was a turnaround point in the journey. We CAN still live life fully with cancer! It was a time where I finally accepted it and quit fighting it so hard. That doesn’t mean that I stopped helping Jim in his fight, but I learned we still have a lot to appreciate and to treat each day as a gift while fighting his cancer. There are still some difficult moments in time or days where that stupid CEA number clouds the gift of life but we pick up the boot straps and go back at the fight again as if these numbers aren’t changing. I say this as Jim’s number has been creeping up for the past 3 months. Yes,it’s discouraging but he is still alive! I’ll end these comments with what a fellow cancer friend always signs off of his correspondence with and that is “Enjoy the ride.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the comment Becky! Like most/all cancer survivors I went through the entire cycle of emotions including many negative ones post-diagnosis. It was in 2015 that I fully transitioned to where I have been ever since, To take my cancer diagnosis and approach it not from a position of what was lost but instead use it to power an attitude of positive response. I have never looked back at previous approaches ever since and my Life is better for it. As you perfectly summed up, enjoy the ride (while trying to maximize the length of the ride!) 🙂 Cancer or no cancer, that is a good philosophy of Life! Take care, -Tom

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  2. Really, really nice Tom, you describe how I feel precisely, especially those fb moments and Becky, I get my latest CEA this afternoon, hoping desperately for a decrease after a ssready trending increase!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hope your numbers were good or great shanbrock6! Jim has his CT Scan tomorrow to “check” why his numbers are climbing. We’re keeping our fingers crossed for no new spots or any signs of growth. Cheers!

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  3. Very true, Tom. Thanks for reminding us the value of today and now. I was at the AACR last week, one of the best meetings in life. One thing that I took away is that for many patients, it’s about the race between time and the speed of coming up with new therapy. For Jimmy Carter, the new therapy came just in time.
    I’m in the force for new therapy, and I’m in for you, Tom.
    Best,
    Hequn

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Had a similar moment yesterday, Tom. Spent four hours with my niece and nephew and just enjoyed being together in the sun at the playground. I enjoyed chasing them (not on and on, but some), their laughter….their conversation (Hans said, “my shoes are taking on sand, ya-ya”)

    Not worried about tomorrow or last week. And very grateful.

    As always thank you for challenging me to think in the moment too….. And for gratitude as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wonderful post, Tom, you must take after your Grandpa Tessmer. I don’t think he was ever more happy than he was out in the woods. It didn’t matter if he was hunting or just out “wandering through the trees”, he always enjoyed it to the fullest, even when he wasn’t sure where he might be in relation to where he thought he should be. He never “got lost” in the woods, just sometimes “didn’t know exactly where he was”. While we always made it out of the woods, there were many times our evening meal was FAR later than intended. lol

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for posting this. I have mcrc from over 5 years ago but have lived two and a half years after recurrence.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: True Faith (FAVORITE POSTS OF 2016) | AdventuresInLivingTerminallyOptimistic

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