Why You Should "Live Like You Were Dying" - If You Have Cancer

by GregP_WN

The first time I heard this song, I was just a few years out from the final treatments for my second diagnosis of Hodgkins Disease. As I listened to the lyrics I thought how true they are. I was 30 and cancer had already tried to kill me twice. I needed to get past that time and get busy living.

Why You Should Live Like You Were Dying If You Have Cancer

Whether you have just been diagnosed, or in the middle of treatments or in survivorship and moving on with your life, maybe we should take his advice and "live like you were dying". Maybe you should go skydiving, or Rocky Mountain climbing, or ride a bull named Fumanchoo. Or, whatever you want to do, because whether or not you enjoy life and do the things you would like to do, or if you stay cooped up inside your house, you won't keep whatever is going to happen down the road from happening. We like to say that you should "live your life....Not your cancer.

I ride a motorcycle and people are always asking me why do I want to ride those dangerous things? Don't you know you'll get killed on that thing? Yes, some idiot that's not paying attention could, pull right out in front of me while I am riding down the highway minding my own business and enjoying what I like to do.  Or, I could just have a wonderful day out riding. 

A few years ago my Brother-in-law asked me to ride along with him and some of his friends that he was in the National Guard with, out to Colorado. Wow, what a trip!

Me And Terry Kansas New Mexico, Kickin Cancer Me, Terry, Gene And Vera Colorado State Line

It was about 3800 miles round trip, we were gone for 7 days. To basically arrive out in Steamboat Springs, Colorado and have supper, spend the night, and head back. People have asked what we went to that town for, I always say, "to eat supper".  There was no purpose to the trip, other than to say we did it. We rode through flatlands, hills, mountains, hot weather and snow. For me, it was the best motorcycle trip I have ever been on, it was the longest for sure and a ton of fun. Not once did I tell myself that I shouldn't be doing this, riding down the interstate at 70 or 80 miles an hour while being only 3' away at times, from a car or truck beside you is inherently dangerous. It was good friends, good roads, good weather and good times. I could have "what if'd" it away and not gone, but I would have missed a great ride. This was after cancer tried to kill me for the third time. We could have died in a terrible accident, or cancer could have killed me on its third try, but neither happened. 

I also like to ride ATV's in the creek that runs behind our house for miles. That creek is a haven for ATV's all through the year, people come from miles around to ride the 10 - 12 miles of gravel creek bed, deep holes, steep hills that make up an exciting adventure. Yes, it can be dangerous, a person could, flip over and get pinned under their ATV and drown, or break a leg or something, or not. I have spent hours and hours riding and splashing in that creek with friends and family and by myself. I even took my Dad down the creek and got him splashed before he passed away from prostate cancer. He was 83 at the time. He was fighting off the prostate cancer, but still was doing what he wanted, raising every kind of animal you can imagine, spending time with family, and not letting cancer slow him down. 

Me And Dad

With all of the nutjob terrorists, mass shooters, deranged stabbers, bombers, madman suicide car drivers, and other crazy people, you can get shot, stabbed, gassed, blown up, shot, and one of those things might even kill you, in your own little hometown where they always say, "I never dreamed anything like that would happen here". Well, it could . But should you be a prisoner in your own home to the fear of the "what if's", I don't think so.

Despite the possibility of all of those, my Wife has always wanted to drive to the East Coast and look at lighthouses. The main one she wanted to see was Portland Head Lighthouse in Maine. 

Me And Sweetie Maine Portland Head

So, when I got my last diagnosis and had two months before I could see my Oncologist for our first appointment, we loaded up the Explorer with what we thought we would need, and our baby dog Bella, and set out for Portland, Maine. We were gone for a month. Even though we had no idea where my cancer was in my body this time, or what would be coming as far as treatments, surgery or anything else that is involved with cancer and it's treatment, that trip was the best trip we have ever taken. It gave us a chance to take our mind off of my third diagnosis, a diagnosis that I was told 20 years earlier would be "difficult to control" if cancer ever came back. This was after I was given the "all clear", after my second diagnosis with Hodgkin's Disease 20 years earlier. 

Bella And Sweetie, Maine

During that trip, that covered several thousand miles of driving, we could have gotten in an accident or one of the crazy things that I listed before could have happened. But it didn't, we didn't spend that whole trip worrying about what if something goes wrong. Instead, we spent the entire trip enjoying what my Sweetie has always wanted to do, took tons of pictures, ate some seafood, saw some great scenery and just had a wonderful time. 

The only time that cancer got to be a part of that trip was when I would occasionally reach up and rub the lump that was beginning to stick out of my neck. But, I would always take my mind off of that lump, and get it back on the trip we were on and the good times we were having. I learned years ago a great mind control trick. Keep your mind OFF what you don't want, and ON what you DO want. Sounds simple, right? 

Even on those occasions, I could have worried about what this cancer was, will it be the one that gets me, will it cause me to be permanently disabled, will it cause financial ruin this time, what will my Wife do without me. But, I always ask this simple question. Will worrying about the situation cause it to go away? Will it make it any better? Will worrying about it keep any of the things I was about to have to endure not happen? NO! So, why do we worry about this stuff so much?

I have been a musician since I was 13, well as a lot of other musicians will say, I'm "just a drummer", (that's an inside musicians joke on drummers). My Wife tells a story about coming into my room where I grew up, with some other friends where I was playing along with some Black Sabbath, and trying to teach myself how to play those darned drums, and she says it was love at first site. I was 13 and I knew chicks dug the drummer. Since then, music has always been a part of our lives. 

I have played in clubs for over 40 years, some whacko could come in and shoot the place up, but we still go to the gig. Cancer took aim at me 3 times and missed. I'm not going to worry about the "what if" of a shooter coming in. We have played benefit concerts for Relay For Life several times, as a cancer survivor we feel the need to give back. 

Playing Relay

My Wife and I have been to hundreds of concerts over the years, most of the time in some larger City near where we live, that sort of thing could happen on any of those nights, but we won't stop going. When you stop doing the things that you love, out of fear of dying, you are dead.

We will be in Nashville this Wed. night to see Amy Lee and Evanescence play at the Ryman Auditorium. We could have an accident on the way to or from there, get mugged, shot or knifed while walking to or from the parking lot, but we will be there, enjoying that show.

Recently, we lost a young man from our hometown in the Las Vegas shooting. He and his Wife were there, "just to go see Eric Church". They had made it a point,  to go to a concert somewhere once a month. Neither of them had cancer, but they were living up to "live like you were dying".

So, what good does worrying do? None! Instead, I concentrate every day on doing whatever Sweetie and I want to do. Drive 50 miles out of the way to maybe see another interesting lighthouse? Sure! Get lost and drive through the middle of a Naval base, and get stopped at a guard shack while looking for another lighthouse that's supposed to be around here somewhere? Why Not! Drive 3 hours to Memphis on her Birthday for her favorite shrimp fried rice? Absolutely! You could say, "what if something goes wrong", or you could say "what if it goes perfectly right and is the best day ever", the "what if" that you choose to concentrate on is up to you. 

We asked our WhatNext Community what they were doing in their life. Did they live their life being afraid of what might go wrong, or did they live their life, not their cancer? Are they worrying about the what if's, or are they looking forward to the what if's? This is what some said about this:

Lynne-I-Am - "Since surviving surgery and frontline chemo I have spent my days looking forward and reconnecting in part to who I was prior to my cancer diagnosis. I say connect in part because I have been changed from who I was both physically and mentally. I am not one to put off until tomorrow anymore and find myself less willing to “ settle “ or “ go along with the flow”.I have had several new experiences since ending treatment in 2014, and I plan to have more. I have made reservations for a cruise in Sept. 2018 and am mapping out a car trip visiting several states for 2019. I do not want to be that person who says, “ I wish I had.” I still get scanxiety., and I know recurrence is a distinct possibility, but I will face that if and when."

LiveWithCancer - "Thank goodness, I am not a worrier. The day I received my diagnosis I decided to live every day to the fullest extent possible. Five years later, I am still living life as fully as possible." 

lh25 - "I do worry, but I did before my diagnosis. In fact, I've used that to inspire myself a bit. Since I did worry, but still was blindsided with Cancer, clearly worry doesn't work. I try to balance out the "but it could happen again" with that.  I don't let it stop me from doing what I want. On a trip to Hawaii in April, I did an ATV ride. We were the oldest in the group, and I was a little terrified before :). But I did it and had a blast!"

Molly72 - "Just the opposite, if I got thru 3 major cancers & countless minor ones, what's left to be afraid of? I'm too old to worry about any more cancer. When it's my time. I will go. There are worse things than death, believe me! Well, maybe I worry about our current political mess!"

SandiA - "I actually worry a lot less. After I faced and still facing the what if’s of cancer nothing else seems quite as scary. I worry less about what everyone thinks and have learned to enjoy the little things and the big things."

deena - "I am a survivor of six years. I decided the reprioritize my life and refuse to live to work at my career. I will never be laying on a deathbed saying “Boy, I wish I worked more hours”. Not worth it. I want to live my life with as little fear as possible and decided to go to countries I had not considered going to before including Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Finland, Sweden, and Denmark. In addition, I decided to return to France for a third trip."

"Live Like You Were Dyin'' Tim McGraw

He said I was in my early 40's,
With a lot of life before me,
And a moment came that stopped me on a dime.
I spent most of the next days, lookin' at the x-rays,
Talkin' 'bout the options and talkin' 'bout sweet time.
Asked him when it sank in, that this might really be the real end.
How's it hit ya, when you get that kind of news.
Man what ya do.
And he says,


I went sky divin',
I went rocky mountain climbin',
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull name Fumanchu.
And I loved deeper,
And I spoke sweeter,
And I gave forgiveness I've been denying,
And he said someday I hope you get the chance,
To live like you were dyin'.

He said I was finally the husband,
That most the time I wasn't.
And I became a friend a friend would like to have.
And all the sudden goin' fishing,
Wasn't such an imposition.
And I went three times that year I lost my dad.
Well I finally read the good book,
And I took a good long hard look at what I'd do
If I could do it all again.
And then.


Like tomorrow was a gift and you've got eternity
To think about what you do with it,
What could you do with it, what can
I do with with it, what would I do with it.

Sky divin',
I went rocky mountain climbin',
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull name Fumanchu.
And I loved deeper,
And I spoke sweeter,
And I watched an eagle as it was flyin'.
And he said someday I hope you get the chance,
To live like you were dyin'.

To live like you were dyin'.
To live like you were dyin'.
To live like you were dyin'.
To live like you were dyin'.

So, you can live like you are dying, and live life, or you can live like you're already dead, the choice is up to you. My advice to anyone fighting through cancer is to enjoy every minute of life you can, eat the cake, buy the ticket, go to the damn show, tomorrow is not promised to any of us. and of course, you always need to:

Don't Stop Believing

After having cancer try to kill me 3 times, and one "side effect stroke" tried to get me, I am trying to live my life like I could die tomorrow. What do you want to do that you know you would be disappointed if you didn't when you're done with all this? How are you living your life with, or after cancer? Are you taking chances, having some fun? Please share in the comments below, and bonus points for pictures!

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How to Be a Good Friend to Someone With Cancer

Get the book "Live Like You Were Dying" here

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