“February?” I asked incredulously.
“Yup, that’s what they told my wife. They didn’t think I could handle it. She told me though”. He ripped open another box of frozen turkeys and moved them closer to the tailgate of his truck.”They was wrong. I can handle it.”
“I don’t suppose I should point out that it’s late November huh?”. Pete looked at me and shook his head. ‘Nuff said. This guy had stage 4 lung cancer, had less than three months to live and here he was; out in the cold at the local food bank handing out frozen turkeys with me to the less fortunate in our community.
After spending 10 minutes with Pete I felt that I was destined to have met him. He is the walking example of how I want to be when I have less than 3 months to live. He is aware, he is doing what he wants to do, he is following his doctor’s orders and keeping his house in order. He has focused on quality of life.
With the exception of a few low points, I am not the feel sorry for myself type. I don’t believe in it. I continue to believe that if I take care of myself and do what the Dr’s tell me I may live long enough for a cure. And if one doesn’t come around, I will have inevitably added years to my life by not thinking negatively. I only have one caveat, I insist on having a quality of life. Until the day that I am not strapped to a dialysis machine 7 days a week, I will strive to have a quality of life.
I spent the entire 4 hours of the food drive with Pete. He told me his story in bits and pieces as we opened boxes and carried food to people’s cars. He never smoked, he was exposed to asbestos while in the military. He is a life-long member of the community. He is an avid game hunter and fisherman. He told stories of hunting in his backyard when he was 14 before all of the houses were built. He went hunting as recently as last week with his grandson. He still works in his yard. He hopes to take his motorcycle out for one last ride but it’s too cold. He’s taking a ton of medications that make sleep difficult but he doesn’t mind because he can “sleep all he wants when he is dead”.
I am so glad that I met him. He reminded me never to get sucked into the bottomless pit of self-pity. He won’t let his illness define him. He is doing what makes him happy for as long as he can. He is exactly how I want to be when I get to that stage.
It’s not the years in your life, it’s the life in your years.