3 Thoughts on Maintaining an Outward Focus with Cancer

Hubby and I were anticipating a new trail with friends. Three-in-One Cone in the Sisters Wilderness with views of seven distinct massive rock-solid peaks. As we began our climb, we found ourselves in the clouds. Dense. Gray. Wet coldness. No mountains in any direction.

A week later, Hubby and I hiked the same trail and climbed the same cinder cone. The cold was not miserable. The views were stunning. A grand and splendid 360-degree canvas in shades of blues and whites.

Although the landscape had not changed from the previous week, what we saw was completely altered.


North and Middle Sister, left to right (Photo credit: Gary Johnson)

Life is a bit that way, isn’t it? Two people can experience identical incidents – say, similar cancer diagnoses – and have two completely different outcomes. Depending on the focus.

I recently came across this wisdom from Beth Moore:

“Nothing about outward focus during inward pain is natural but it could well be our survival.”

It’s normal to focus inwardly. On us. On our devastating news. Not seeing anyone else. But sometimes surviving pain can be as simple as looking outwardly and then doing something about what we see.

With that in mind, here are 3 thoughts on outward focus:

Seeing others changes the view. 

When we truly notice other people who have been abandoned, broken, diagnosed; who are incurable, hungry, hopeless, heart-broken – this takes the focus off ourselves, and can consequently lessen our own sorrows and losses.

How do we train ourselves to see others? Perhaps through giving opportunities, or volunteer activities, or random acts of kindness. Hubby once saw a young man trudging down our street under the burden of a Christmas tree. Hubby, carrying his own heavy load of terminal cancer, gave this young man and his tree a ride home, which turned out to be some distance to walk with a tree on your back. But no trouble in a pick-up truck. Took twenty minutes. Cost eight cents in gas, give or take a few pennies.

Noticing people staggering beneath the weight of Christmas trees takes an effort to see beyond our own staggering weight.

With outward focus, we live more fully.

By fully, I mean gratefully hopefully generously heart-wide-open purposefully. I’ve written before about one of the ways Hubby and I chose to give back within the cancer community by establishing a non-profit and sharing our living-well-with-terminal-cancer story across the country. I can assure you that we benefitted more than any of our audiences.

In full living, we can better shape our destinies.

What I choose to focus on determines how I live today. And how I choose to live today greatly impacts my tomorrows.

Hubby and I had some rather large goals. We were operating in some of them — i.e., the non-profit-sharing-our-story goal — and were working toward others. We were just foolish enough to believe that these large and impossible (to us) dreams could come to fruition despite the terminal-cancerness.

And then Hubby died. And I assumed our dreams would die right along with him. Because we were a team. This being-on-my-own is different. But whether I’m part of a couple or living singly, I get to help shape my destiny. And so I have chosen to continue an outward focus on my way to the rest of my days on earth.

More wisdom from Beth Moore:

“If you and I want to lie down and die long before we’re dead, being self-consumed in our season of suffering should do the trick.”

Pretty blunt stuff right there. Your thoughts?

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