Inspirational merry-go-round

I met an amazing man the other day and it got me thinking about what is it that gives us meaning and purpose in our lives, and how important it is.

Five years ago this man had several radical surgeries to cut out cancers from his face, mouth and neck. He is now unable to eat or drink through his mouth. He has no voice box any more. He has not tasted food or liquids for over 5 years. Life as he had experienced it for over half a century has changed in so many ways.

He now uses a portable typing machine that translates his one-fingered typing into his new American-accented voice. He has considerable facial disfiguration, breaths through a hole in his neck and eats and drinks through a tube in his stomach.

We had a wonderful conversation about how he still enjoys life. He had a sparkle in his eyes I have seldom seen in anyone. He said his eyes have become a major way of expression and punctuate his typing. He told me that before he had cancer his eyes showed no emotion, but now he agreed, they were in deed the window to (and from) his soul.

I asked whether he would let me interview him about his experiences and philosophy of living after cancer treatment for a book I am writing. He excitedly agreed and said he would also send me some of his writings. The writings are private, but I was brought to tears and humbled by the generosity of spirit of this man whose current major disappointment is due to his geographical isolation he is limited in the amount of connection and inspiration he can offer other people experiencing a journey similar to his own.

He finds pleasure and meaning in being with family and friends, fishing and his animals. He appreciates getting up in the morning!

I also had cancer about 7 years ago now and have had, and still have to some extent, my own emotional, physical and spiritual ups and downs.

“Listening” to this man reminded me what gives my life meaning and purpose: simply enjoying “being” here on earth, experiencing a sense of connection with others – not just friends and family, but people like this man, who cross my path for a time, enjoying nature in all its moods, and supporting others in any way I can to experience peaceful and meaningful lives.

When I was diagnosed with cancer I read Petrea’s book "Quest for Life". I was struggling at that time with thinking that if only I could only figure out what I had done “wrong” I could stop cancer from coming back. She wrote that for her it’s not about living the longest life, but living each day well.

That was a huge “ah ha” moment for me and became the turning point of my healing. Whether I survived cancer or not was no longer the major issue. (Of course I was happy to stay alive!)

Living each day well in ways that are important and significant to me creates meaning and joy. This courageous man reminded me of that as he endeavours to do the same.

Just goes to show that we don’t have to be perfect, we can have bits of us missing, cut out, burned up, not working properly and still enjoy life!

Kevin Oliver was the source of inspiration for  this story written by Jane Ewins

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