When I posted up my first blog as the re-launch of this site, I stressed how this site would be an online home for sharing stories about living life to its fullest, seeing the world and generally making the most out of life. I have plans for future posts, from concepts such as travel hacking to guest posts by other writers, telling their stories of their travels. My hope for the site really is to show the various ways that you can take your life and make the most of it, from the independent location worker, to the world backpacker, to the cubicle dweller, the stay at home mom and everyone in between.
One thing I have learned in my life is that, sometimes, you need to make a decision for yourself, you need to choose to change your life, change your direction, change yourself. You need to take make the decision to take your own life in your hands and make the most of it. For better or worse. The only person you have to hold accountable for your happiness and your life is yourself.
To transition this blog to the main point that I want to convey here, in the past, I have chosen to live my life the way I wanted to. I was never forced into making a decision. I never had any life altering events force my hand one way or another. To the same point, I never lost anyone close to me as I was growing up. I had not lost any aunts, uncles, parents, grandparents or anyone else close to me. Sure, great aunts, great uncles, my great grandma, my grandparents on my dad’s side, have passed away, but I was never close enough with any of them for it to really affect me.
That all changed on Monday, May 8th.
Cancer is a Heartless Bitch
Many years ago, when I was in my teens, my grandpa was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer. I remember seeing how much it scared and affected my family, but I think that the time, being as young as I was, I did not understand the gravity of the situation. With all of our prayers and God willing, my grandpa made it through and is still cancer free to this day. I didn’t realize until much later in life that we almost lost him that year.
In the past 5 years, 2 of my colleagues/friends have been diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Robert and John were both healthy, hard-working, family guys when they were diagnosed with NHL. I am very happy to say that have both beaten it, however, John still continues his recovery today.
As the years go by, as the awareness of cancer grows, both personally and in the media, it is hitting closer and closer to home for me.
I now wear this daily. At first it was to support John and his battle with cancer and its various ailments over the past 2 years. Then just last November, 2010, my family suffered a crushing blow, and I started wearing it to support 2 people.
My uncle had been diagnosed with Cancer throughout his body.
A seemingly healthy, active man in his late 50’s. He had yearly check-ups and aside from the stress of a job that he loved, he was healthy. Then one day in November, he had a pain in his side that lasted a little longer than it should have. A few doctors and tests later, my aunt received the news that her husband had cancer. Throughout his body. From his tailbone to his brain.
It enveloped him, but it never defined him. Even after every single doctor’s visit came with worse and worse news, he always had a smile on his face, a joke to tell, a hug to give. He always told everyone not to worry. He bore that burden. He was the provider, he was the worrier. In that respect, he reminds me very much of my grandpa.
He was a huge sports fan, a huge Yankees fan. The featured image at the top is in honor of his team. He was a father, an uncle, a husband and a son. He was one of the most giving and caring men I have ever met in my life, and it was a privilege and an honor to know him.
Alan Zwickler lost his battle with Cancer on May 8th, 2011.
This was the closest death I have ever experienced. I grew up very close to my cousins, my aunt and my uncle. We played basketball on easter and thanksgiving at their house. We played stickball in the street, volleyball and basketball in the pool and football wherever we could. We watched every major sporting event as a family. I will always remember the March madness parties, the NBA finals, the World Series, the Super Bowl, the World Cup. Until I was 16 or 17, we spent every one of these as a family and those will always be my fondest memories of him.
He was initially diagnosed 6 months ago and went downhill fast. I was there with him the weekend that he found out and I am still in shock to this day. I don’t even think his death has really registered in my brain just yet.
I know I can learn something from the type of person he was, but I also believe that this hits even closer to home with my belief in living in the now and making the most out of every day.
Your days are numbered, the problem is, you don’t know what that number is.
Is is 18,250? 7300? 1825? 365? 30? 7? 1?
I have read stories about how medical scares really force people to re-evaluate their lives, make drastic changes, live life to the fullest. I could give you hundreds of examples right here if I wanted, but to me this is more important to learn and acknowledge how precious life is and how short it can be.
Are you saving money for retirement? What is your plan if you don’t make it that far?
Do you have a 5 year plan? What about a 5 day plan?
Are you living a memorable life, or are you just getting by?
Are you making a difference in someone else’s life?
Have you ever lost someone close to you? How has it affected your life, your plans for life and your goals in life? Let me know in the comments below.