Sometimes, when folks get the dreaded “C” word from their doctor (or a host of other terminal illnesses), they retreat into their homes and withdraw from friends and family, ticking down the days they have left and often regretting things they never did, words they never said, and places they never saw. While I can’t say for sure what I’d do if I were in their place, I can say that I hope I’d be “foolish” and try to make the most of every moment I had. Here are five stories of people who did just that:
1. Until I Say Good-Bye: My Year of Living with Joy by Susan Spencer-Wendel and Bret Witter
Spencer-Wendel was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in 2011 and, as a result, decided to travel the world and do things she’d only dreamed of. She went to California to try to track down her birth mother, went to Canada, Cyprus, and the Caribbean, and took her 14 year old daughter wedding dress shopping since she’d never get to be there for the actual wedding. She wrote her memoir with her thumb on her iPhone, because that was her last finger that still worked at the time. Her final few years were filled with adventure, tender moments with family, and creating a legacy that’ll last lifetimes over.
2. Chasing Daylight: How My Forthcoming Death Transformed My Life by Eugene O’Kelly and Corinne O’Kelly
Eugene O’Kelly was the CEO of a large accounting firm, wildly successful, ambitious, career-minded, and mostly too busy for his family until he was diagnosed with advanced-stage brain cancer in 2005. Chasing Daylight is his chronicle of the last four months of his life, during which time he left his job, traveled to visit friends and family for the last time, slowed down to really experience life and sought to make “perfect moments” for his wife and daughter before he died.
3. Wild and Precious Life by Deborah Ziegler
Deborah Ziegler is the mother of Brittany Maynard, made famous by her choice, after being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, to move her family to Oregon so she could use the “Death with Dignity” law to procure medication to end her own life when her suffering became too great. Her last days were spent advocating on behalf of others who wish to end their own lives, and that is exactly what she did on November 2, 2014. Her mother shares her story.
4. A Seeker’s Harvest by Kevin Pollari
Pollari was diagnosed with ALS in 2010, and promptly left his job, traveled the country, climbed a mountain, and renovated his home, all before the disease could rob him of his mobility. Now, he continues to advocate for ALS research, still making the most of his remaining days.
5. No Regrets: Last Chance for a Father and Son by Barry Neil Kaufman
After Kaufman’s father was diagnosed with terminal cancer, he set out to do something: heal his broken relationship with his son. Kaufman shares that story, one of reconciliation, growth, and loss.
I hope you’ll find these reads inspiring and cathartic, and they’ll encourage you to grasp every moment and make it your own.
YouTube Channel: CBS This Morning
Featured image via ANH USA