Our Story Begins:
From Feeling Down to
A friend shared this article with me the other day. It’s a piece that ran on NBC’s Today Show about how a cancer diagnosis and treatment can have some pretty major changes on a person.
It’s not the medical changes. This isn’t about losing hair or weight or stamina. These people – the majority of them profiled were breast cancer survivors – had suddenly realized they had already stared down the scariest thing they’d ever have to face. As a result, many became adventurers in their own right. Skydiving, mountain climbing, motorcycle treks . . . none of these things seemed far-fetched to the women profiled.
The experts empaneled by the journalists recounted the reasons for the shift in attitude. These survivors, they say, have the courage to face things they’ve thought as daunting before. The line in the article implies that these people have “held hands with death” and on the inside they’ve changed their attitudes about what is worthwhile in life. New jobs, new adventures, stating in other terms the old line: “seize the day!”
I don’t dispute any of that. Let’s get that out of the way right now. I find it insanely admirable. My friend finished the chemo rounds for her breast cancer and is getting ready to do a 200 mile biking fundraiser for breast cancer awareness. I . . . can’t fathom riding a bike that far or running a marathon or what have you unless someone was chasing me.
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I have a caveat, perhaps a reversal of thought for the people who make these changes in their lives, un-scientific though it may be.
It’s not about death. It’s about life.
Go with me here. I didn’t face a life-altering disease that changed my approach on life. I did, however, lose someone. After my wife, Andrea, passed away in 2011 I had no idea how different things would be. Now I see that we left behind the quiet, suburban life that we’d lived before. My wife had a fear of roller coasters. She didn’t like waiting in line at theme parks. She didn’t want to go to the beach or let the kids walk too far into the water. In one of the compromises of marriage I backed off on playing guitar and songwriting.
Today, 2 ½ years after losing Andrea, my kids and I have all made vast changes. I play, write and record music all the time! My oldest daughter was on the path her mother had pushed . . . entering a medical profession. However, Abbi didn’t want to go into that; it’s just her mom expected it and she was about to embrace it. She came to terms with the fact that her mother’s influence is worth listening to but not always right and is now doing what she believes is best for her. My wife hated the idea of Abbi being an actress or director. But guess what? She’s really, really good at it.
We have visited giant Sequoias. We spent an evening making fun of figures at the wax museum. We fed parrots at a bird sanctuary. We walk along the ocean. I play music all the time, as does my middle daughter. My sons write and sing. We travel and go off the path.
We went to Disneyland and even my son who is scared to death of them . . . rode the roller coaster.
There’s so much going on in the world that every minute we spend inside the house – and we still spend our share there – is a minute missed of some amazing part of the world.
For us, and I think as much for many of the patients of such horrible diseases, death or its possibility are but the launching platform. Life . . . the things we see when the scales have fallen from our eyes after death or near-death . . . that’s the rocket fuel that propels us into the stratosphere!
What about you? Are you following the same path over and over? Soccer game to soccer game to Lacrosse to music lessons? Are you trudging in the ruts of life’s roads without noticing the road off the path?
Dave Manoucheri is a writer, journalist and musician based in Sacramento, California. A father of four, two daughters and twin sons, his blog, Our Story Begins is a chronicle of their life after the loss of his wife, Andrea, in March of 2011. Follow him on Twitter @InvProducerMan.