I recently saw this quote on a magnet beside a picture of a horse running. It said, “Live like someone left the gate open.” I added it to my huge collection of magnets on my refrigerator.

Initially, I thought this is an excellent motto to live by and thought it was “cute.” But as I continued to contemplate, I realized why I was drawn to this simple, little inexpensive magnet.

Cancer was my gate! I had always felt before the diagnosis that I was living life to the fullest. I had several advanced degrees, different professions that I loved, and had done some travel. I had always worked long hours and tried to be of service to others. Most important, I had wonderful friends, neighbors and family.

Then along came the cancer diagnosis – incurable cancer with a time limit.

What did I change? I was forced to give up my jobs. I decided to spend my time and money on travel and take annual cruises when able. I joined a wonderful church that does lots of mission work. I wanted to spend my volunteer time with the church, and also as a member of the Patient Advisory Council at the Cancer Center where I receive my treatments. Writing then became my top priority.

I also had to change my attitude. I often, in my own words, tend to “stew and worry and carry on.” If someone cut me off in traffic I was angry about it for several minutes afterward. I worried constantly about slights, real or imagined, because I wanted everyone to like me. Then after cancer, I realized I have no more time to stew. Do I really want to pout all day to myself about a slight, when I am alive and thankful for living? And what am I doing always thinking of myself, when so many other people need a card, visit, e-mail, tweet, or phone call to encourage them?

I found myself much happier. I wish it had not taken cancer to learn this worthwhile lesson.

I am trying not to spend any time worrying, but old habits die hard and I have to work at it constantly. I realize I need to spend every day not worrying, being happy and doing the things I love. Yes – cancer was my gate and it opened me up to a whole new way of life!

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