Keeping Busy

I enjoy baking. It takes my mind off of the more stressful things in my life. At one point one of those things was cancer.

I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the end of 2000. Two years later I had gotten into remission and relapsed twice. Things were looking pretty grim and I had a well respected specialist from a world famous cancer center I saw for a second opinion tell me I was terminally ill. He said the allogeneic bone marrow transplant my doctor said I should consider would be a waste of time. I gave it a try anyway and nearly thirteen years later I’m still here (such as I am).

At the time there were no guarantees. I could’ve died of an infection, from side effects of the transplant or the cancer may come back (and if so I really would’ve been terminally ill). Not that it did me any good but sometimes I’d think about what it would be like to die of cancer. I knew it wouldn’t kill me suddenly, out of the blue like a malignant lightning bolt. I would linger, have bad days and really bad days, but I didn’t think I’d be bed ridden the whole time.

photo - keeping busy 2What would I do to try to keep what little of the sanity I had left? I would need to keep busy. I would bake. I enjoyed doing it. It’s not expensive like fixing cars or collecting art. While my wife was at work and my daughter at school, maybe I could play my favorite music and bake the day away. I imagined myself making breads, cookies, cakes and pies and giving them away to family and friends who’d helped us out. As time passed I’d get more sick, bake less and eventually die the kind of death I feared the most.

The exercise of planning my pre-death routine made me think about what I really like to do. Baking is something you do with your brain and your hands. Unlike my cushy state job behind a desk, when I baked I had something tangible when I was done, even if it didn’t turn out like I planned. The chances were good what I made would be enjoyed and appreciated (unlike the end product of my job).

I’m still baking, especially around the holidays. I own my own business and I bake and ship goodies to my clients as gifts. They seem to appreciate it and it builds some good will. Today I made mocha pecan pies, mostly for clients (Can we have a moment of silence for the blender that gave its life so that these pies might live?).

Whether or not you’re terminally ill, think about how you’d want to spend your last healthy days then spend more time doing it, whatever it is. If you like it that much, find the time and energy to do it. As much as you can, live your life as if you were dying. It should make your life a little more worth living.

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