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What It Means to ‘Live Life to the Fullest’ With Terminal Ovarian Cancer

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Yesterday, I went to a fall festival with Mika, my 7-year-old, and her dad, Donald. Part of my exceptional exit plan is taking advantage of the days while I am still healthy to experience my life to its fullest. Living life to its fullest will have a different meaning for each and every person. For some, living life to its fullest means knocking off a bucket list of adventures, such as jumping out of a perfectly good airplane or visiting a special place. Living life to its fullest, for me, means spending as much quality time with my family as I can, while I am still able.

Mika with face paint


Unfortunately for me, we are rolling into the cold season when I do not want to even leave the house. I have been very sensitive to cold since I became paralyzed, and as far as I am concerned there are only two seasons: cold and comfortable. Here in Colorado Springs, the cold season (for me) usually runs from Labor Day until the official start of summer in the third week of June.

I have been fortunate this year because the comfortable season stretched into October, and although the breeze yesterday made me much colder than I would have liked, tomorrow and the two days after that will be comfortable before the deep chill on Thursday. For the next 258 days my good days will be influenced by Mother Nature and (of course) my attitude (I found this fun countdown website that counts down to many events and days to/until/summer).

That quality family time is going to take a lot of work on my part. I need to balance play time with getting my house and affairs in order. I have allowed clutter to take over my house during the past 11+ years, and I need to get it out so we can do more family activities at home together. I have allowed my upbringing and my circumstances to take over my house and it is time I take responsibility for my actions and correct them.

I grew up in a poor household, and every item was kept if there was any chance it could be used in the future. I still want to use the last drop in a shampoo bottle and reuse the back sides of paper for drawing. I still buy 10-cent notebooks when they have back-to-school sales even though I have so many more than we will need. I have finally decided that there is a point at which reuse and stocking up becomes its own form of paralysis and I am ready to start walking (figuratively) again.

I did start clearing some of the clutter last year after I found out I had cancer. I emptied an entire shed full of stuff that had been there for most of the time since I bought my house. I had a friend come over to help me move the stuff to where I could see it. We then went through each box or container and I donated at least 75 percent of it at that time. I also kept a few boxes that had sentimental items, such as the t-shirts I wore when I coached my older daughter’s soccer teams or family photos. Those boxes are still sitting in my downstairs great room and I simply roll around them instead of dealing with them.

I justify my stagnation with excuses such as, “I need to do work for my business so I cannot take the time” or “My family is too busy and stressed to help me clean it.” It is time for me to quit making excuses. I am going to quit seeking new clients for my business, so that will free up several hours a week. I have a decent-sized network of friends that I can pull from to get help one day every other week or so to get the other shed, trailer and several rooms in my house back in order. By requesting clutter-clearing help from my friends when I am home alone and my family is at school and work, I keep my evenings and weekends free for family activities. We can put up the game table on cold days in the cleared space for a game of “Sorry!” or “Hungry, Hungry Hippos.”

My piece of advice to you is to look at your own sources of clutter and decide you are done with it. I read an article recently in which a few people that were living in tiny houses were interviewed. One said they wished they had realized they could have adopted the minimalist mentality even before they tiny sized. Just because I live in a 2,000 square-foot house does not mean I need 2,000 square feet (plus two sheds and a 14-foot trailer (filled to the top) of stuff.

Getty image via ipopba.

Originally published: March 9, 2020
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