Monday, October 11, 2021

Living in the Present

“So why are you here today?”

I felt like I’d been sent to detention. “Well, someone told my children that he hopes I’ll die of cancer.”

Her eyes enlarged, reminding me of the radiation plates at the cancer center.

“That was a pretty cruel thing to say.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I’ve had people hate me before—even for good reason. But who says that to a kid? No one wants their parents to die.”

“How are you processing all of this?” she asked.

“I never knew how hard cancer can be on everyone else. Kids can be mean to each other, but when someone’s parent has cancer, it’s a whole other thing added. Unfortunately...” I sighed. “On the bright side, cancer does seem to bring out the best in most people. I even had a scammer stop scamming me once he found out about my cancer…so that was good.”

She cracked a smile.

“But the person who said he hopes I’ll die…. He’s an adult.”

The fact that someone else is so willing to sign me up for death, it’s just hard to fathom.

“We all die,” I said more to the wall than to her. “God has a plan. And He knows a lot more than I do! I’m so glad we’re not going off the plan I had for my life!” I could just see myself with crazy-long, crimped hair, fiddling to heavy metal for thousands upon thousands of people.

“Elisa, I’ve gotta stop you right there. People wouldn’t say things are going ‘great’ for you now. Why wouldn’t your plan be better?”

“I’m happier than I ever have been. Really. Sure, I have cancer, but I also have the most amazing husband and kids in the world. I have…everything.”

She tapped her fingers on the mahogany desk and eyed me. “You’re so…chipper.” She suddenly laughed. “I don’t normally see people with cancer who are like THIS.”

I literally snorted. “Oh, trust me. I have my days. But what’s wrong with focusing on the positive? If these are my last moments—why the hell would I want to stay sad the whole time?”

We remained quiet for a minute as she thought about what I said. “I’ve been sad a lot lately,” she finally admitted, almost whispering. “I’m honestly not dealing with life the way that you are. I wish I could handle my trials a little better.”

This was like coaxing a rabbit out of a bush. So, very quietly, I asked the counselor, “What’s been going on? What’s been making you so sad?”

And she reluctantly told me the whole d*mn, terrible story about what she’s been through and how she’s suffered this last year. Her dad had committed suicide right after doing all sorts of atrocious things. I didn’t know how she could function after all of that.

“You can’t let this ruin your present—and your future,” I finally said. “I know you have to work through it when it comes up. But if you let regret ‘take the wheel,’ it’ll drive the car and  take over your entire life too.”

She wiped her eyes with some tissues that were for patients.

“Take cancer,” I said. “I can think about it all the time. I’m hardly sleeping at night now because of all the pain. They’re worried my cancer is getting worse after we’ve had to postpone treatments for months. There’s a lot of fear involved in it. But sitting here…worrying about it isn’t gonna do me any good. There are so many great things out there to do.” I smiled at her. “Instead, I want to focus on the memories I’m making with my kids. The memories I’m making with my husband. The things I want to do for myself! And all of a sudden all those things in the past—or the worries of the present—seem like big weights that just hold me down. Why would I want to carry that around with me. Why?” She remained quiet, looking at a beautiful teal vase in her modern office. “Decide what you want to make today or even every moment. Do you want it to be good or do you want to waste it in regret? I can be scared about cancer and ruin the day, or I can have a blast painting with my kids. I can do this—or I can do that. When we consciously make that choice, it’s a lot easier to see what is driving the present. Don’t let regret take the wheel.”

At the end of the “counseling session,” she gave me a huge hug, and tears filled her eyes. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “You came here for help. And you ended up helping me. But, I needed to hear what you said.” 

Plus, then she told me that there was no charge for the session! Whaaa? That’s awesome!

So, it was the oddest free counseling session I’ve ever had, but I really like that girl. I hope she’ll learn to live in the present. It’s one of the most invaluable skills any of us can learn.


  1. We all need to live in the here and now, those of us who have bodies that are falling apart truly get it

  2. What a great post! Thanks!

    1. Perhaps the best thing about facing death, it that it forces us to live in the present. But I feel so terrible for you. You are such a shining light in our world. You and your kids, and Mike, and the books your write, and the fiddle you play. I've written comments on your blog for a while now. Today I feel overwhelmed. Maybe because I didn't know that the treatments are still on hold. All I want to do is give you a hug. Much love from me...

  3. Thank you for all of your support! I appreciate you guys so much. Yeah, it is crazy that the treatments are still on hold. I hope we can start them again soon. I’m actually going to the hospital for scans later this week.