I cannot remember where I read or heard the saying that life is a drag, but it seemed to be from the 1960s or 1970s. It meant that life is boring or tiresome, and there was a time that I might have agreed with the sentiment. But, now I take every day as a gift and a wonderful opportunity to experience new and unexpected moments of joy. It took being unable to live my very predictable life to teach me that routines are not always safe or the best way to live life to the fullest.
As someone who worked for well over 40 years of my life, I got used to a routine that gave my life order, and I very seldom strayed from the routine. I got up at the same time every day, caught the same bus to work, walked into work at the same time, left for home at the same time, caught the same bus home, and went to bed at the same time. I could tell you to the minute what I would be doing at any time of the day. I never integrated new aspects into my life, afraid to upset the delicate balance of my days.
I was so predictable that when I went into restaurants I patronized for breakfast and lunch, the staff did not ask me what I wanted, for I ate the same thing every day. To me, it seemed easiest to find something I liked and stick with it, taking no changes on getting it wrong or being disappointed. My dear friend would try to get me to try new items on the menus, and I would do a cursory examination of the lists of items, but I never chose anything but my usual, much to her chagrin.
When I married Douglas, he would attempt to cajole me into ordering new foods or eating at little out-of-the-way places, but I was stuck in my ways. If he went a different route back home than the way we came, look out! I wanted routine and predictability, so no changing directions on me!
Then, I woke up one morning with a stitch in my right side that very quickly became a constant pain, making it impossible to even read books, my source of joy and peace at evening. I finally went to the doctor for help, so that I could get back to my routines. The first doctors could not find the source of the pain, so they prescribed bottles of narcotics, and I lived each day for months by taking a pain killer every four hours. I even interviewed and got a job while taking them.
I finally found a doctor who cared, and a medical test showed that the scar from my earlier appendix surgery was pressing on my large intestines. But, that was a minor issue, for the test also showed that I had colon cancer.
During chemo, I could not eat the foods I was accustomed to eating. Douglas and I had to find new and unpredictable ways for me to get nourishment that lasted. With cancer, every day is different in terms of how you feel, and what you ate yesterday may not be advisable the next day.
Surprisingly, I came to love the unpredictability of each day, as I found new foods that I loved to eat that I never would have tried before. I became open to trying new things and going to new places, putting the calendar and the watch aside. I stopped scripting every moment of my day, and I just lived it as it came. Yes, I still had to work, so there was some routine in my life. But, having colon cancer reminded me that tomorrow is truly not promised to us, as it is a silent killer, for the colon doesn’t actually feel pain.
My oncologist told me that I was lucky to have gotten that stitch in my side, for it saved my life. I had never even thought of going for a colonoscopy, even though I was over 50. With my routinized life, I am not sure I ever would have gotten around to getting one before it was too late.
I strongly advise everyone over age 50, especially blacks who die at greater numbers from colon cancer than whites, to have a colonoscopy done sooner than later, because you never know with colon cancer until its too late. Recently the American Cancer Society advised having a colonoscopy after age 45, and not waiting until 50.
I thank God today for the pain in my side, and that in His blessed love for me, He found a way to get my attention and save my life! From that experience I learned that if I were going to experience all that life had to offer, I had to truly embrace each day in its newness, being open to whatever unexpected wonders came to my attention. It’s been a blast! Life ain’t no drag no more!