Cancer, things left undone do affect us all

Published 10:25 am Thursday, April 4, 2013

Column: Thanks for Listening, by Scott Schmeltzer

What we have left undone.

I have to pull my racing brain back from the things not accomplished on my everyday to-do lists to consider the broader picture that is life.

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Did I miss an opportunity to help someone?

Did I miss an opportunity to be kind?

Did I spend my time focused on the right things?

I’ve spent more time than usual thinking about undone things in the past month. You see, a good friend of mine from high school was diagnosed with breast cancer. She is battling the monster brilliantly, but being a mother, wife and facilitator of all that is her family, she was unaware of how to ever consider her own feelings first.

Many people pour countless hours into their families and loved ones and never stop to ever think about themselves. Stopping and slowing down to concentrate on you seems selfish. It normally only happens when a health crisis brings you to your knees. This was the case with my friend. When a diagnosis of cancer enters your life, everything stops.

Putting you first needs to be the priority. Your thoughts, feelings and health need to be front and center. When you are the facilitator of the family, normally the first considerations immediately turn to your own family. How should I tell them? How can I comfort them? I do not want to disrupt the kids’ sports seasons or school schedules. I will still pick up my mom on Thursdays to go shopping or help my dad with raking leaves. Again, the urgency is not you.

Please put yourself first. You do not love your family less if for once in your lifetime, you place your needs above them. Give them a chance to love you. Give them a chance to support you. You will be amazed at how comforting and helpful they will be.

Accepting help gives those who care about you a sense of making a contribution at a difficult time. A cancer diagnosis affects the entire family and adds stress, especially to the primary caregivers. Accepting help with meals or chores from neighbors or friends can go a long way in preventing caregiver burnout.

Along with accepting help, please also acknowledge that you need to be honest with your family and friends about your feelings. If you want to cry, cry with them. If you want to swear, swear with them. Speaking the truth and not masking from the people that love you most is essential.

So you see, fighting cancer takes a team. A team to motivate and drive this monster out. A team to pick you up when you fall and are tired. Do not try and ever fight this monster alone.

I started talking about what we have left undone. When cancer enters the picture in anyone’s life, the undone seems microscopic. The sink of dirty dishes goes to the bottom of the list of priorities pretty quickly. The undone in many people’s lives consumes them.



Leave more undone to focus on the important things first.

Did I miss an opportunity to help someone?

Did I miss an opportunity to be kind?

Did I tell my family how much I love them?

We live in moments, not minutes, and we should make the most of each one.

I love you, Robin. Stay gold.


Tribune Publisher Scott Schmeltzer’s column appears every Thursday.