It has been scary at times. And serious. I suppose when life enters any unknown territory, it can be or will be. Especially if the map states: “Brain Tumour”.
But all has not been serious. We’ve had our laughs (sometimes in-between tears), drank good wine with wonderful friends and appreciated beautiful moments that might have been lost before. It made us think about what is important in life. If you should read sentences that start with the words “Life expectancy …” that relates to you, you would probably do the same.
But let’s leave that type of serious talk for another day. The sun is shining in Stellenbosch, it feels almost warm, there are fluffy white clouds in the blue sky and we are edging towards spring. The season for new starts. So, some thoughts about priorities, or maybe I should say “The things I never want to regret”.
1. Time with our 2 girls – when we were told that I have a serious illness, the thought that I may not see my girls (age 5 and 7) growing up or be there for them in future times, hit me the hardest. Of all my fears and insecurities that is the toughest demon to face. We cannot share the full account of my diagnosis with them, but try to use their language to create meanings that is helpful to them. An example is that “Daddy went to hospital for an operation as something was making him feel dizzy”.
I came to appreciate the importance to steal moments that I did not in the past. Just, spending a few more seconds here and there, making them laugh, appreciating what they do and telling them that I love them regularly.
2. Growing with Anneén – it so easy to take for granted that life will just continue in a certain way and that one day you will be that couple sitting on the stoep (porch). Suddenly there was a question mark, the certainty shadowed by doubt. I know that no one knows what challenges tomorrow will bring, but having gone through the last 3 months made it clearer that life needs to be lived with the ones we love, the need to grow together and to appreciate all of it more.
3. Living a healthy life. I thought I was quite healthy this year. I ran two half marathons, enjoyed my work and was working hard, but in a balanced way. I never before had to take medication apart from the odd flu, cold or that dreadful chicken pox in 2006. Even my family tree reflects by large people living to a good old age and relatively few serious illnesses. All of a sudden, for some inexplicable reason, I was a patient, underwent surgery (twice!), was taking medication and supplements, and juicing vegetables and fruits. I need to and want to get back to embracing life, to exercise, to feel and eat healthy and to inspire others to do so.
4. Being able to travel – at present I am content to stay local and get well. But I would love to see Barcelona, Rome and South America. But not only places abroad. I want to connect with more of South Africa again. Especially after 8 years away with only childhood memories of certain places we use to visit. I would love to show my girls wildlife and animals that are not kept in zoos, but that are roaming free.
5. To be a better cook– I blame that old devil called laziness for this. Not only will taking on a more healthy approach to cooking be beneficial to my health, but I respect people
who are able to think about fruit, vegetables, meat and spices and bring it together in a feast. I want to be one of them! Was wine on that list? Well, it is now!
6. To appreciate and enjoy the beauty of life – Life comes with its hardship (see “Brain Tumour” roadmap as example) and we suffer painful losses. But life and the world around us provide us with beauty, amazing stories and sensory input that are not possible on any other planet known to mankind. To breathe deeply, smell, listen carefully, touch softly and look closely may open up worlds within my world that I may miss. Carpe diem! That reminds me. I need to get to the sea more. We are so lucky to live close to the Atlantic and to be in the ocean remains one of my greatest pleasures and experiences of freedom.
7. To spend time with friends and positive people – It has been such a blessing to receive support and kindness from people both locally and abroad. I know this, and often spoke about it to clients and patients, but I don’t know how you deal with hardships on your own. Not that I think you won’t be able to manage some of it, but to truly get through it and to stay emotionally strong requires a team effort. Time with friends and small gestures has carried us when we could not carry ourselves or each other.
8. To see Leonard Cohen live – Is he ever going to come to Cape Town? Come on people, we have had all the other geriatrics!!
9. To continue to love and enjoy what I do for a living – I have always value the importance of an occupation, to be able to love my work and having colleagues I can relate to. Whenever this was not happening in the past, I had to look at myself, evaluate my practice or ask questions about the set-up. I am very fortunate since returning to South Africa to be able to work at the set-up where I am, for the colleagues I have and to provide something to the lives of others remains a key priority for me.
10. To drink good coffee and good wine …