Because We Know Life is Short

beach-calm-clouds-378271“Time is long but life is short.” Stevie Wonder

Another summer, another year after cancer. Four years ago, I was in the thick of it. Depressed, scared, lonely, stressed, angry and out of my mind tired of it all. That summer, time was definitely long.

Somehow I got through the longest summer of my life. When I finally made it to September, I hit a new emotional low because an entire year had gone by since my initial mammogram and I wasn’t yet “over” cancer. (I know they were trying to be helpful, but the people (a doctor and a survivor) who told me cancer will take a year of your life and then it will be “over,” did me no favors.)

I think it’s exactly when we’re experiencing life’s losses that we best appreciate that time is long, but life is short. Those days of grieving miscarriages and infertility, the death of our dear friend on 9/11 and cancer were the longest of my life. But, they also taught me how quickly and without warning a life can be extinguished. And, in that loss of life, brought a shattering reality to my own mortality.

Of course, when the fog lifts and the sun starts to shine a little brighter, it’s easy to forget the preciousness of each moment. To some extent, that’s probably the way it should be. It’s just too hard to maintain the heightened awareness that comes from grief and struggle every day of your life.

Yet, somewhere in our consciousness remains a recognition, a knowledge, that cannot be unlearned. We’ve lived the worst of times and because we know life is short:

  • We make each moment count: “Work like you don’t need the money. Love like you’ve never been hurt. Dance like nobody’s watching.” (Satchel Paige)
  • We give it our all: “Too many people die with their music still in them.” (Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes) “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.” (Erma Bombeck)
  • We don’t take ourselves too seriously: “My life has been one great big joke, a dance that’s walked, a song that’s spoke, I laugh so hard I almost choke when I think about myself.” (Maya Angelou)
  • We try to be kind: “Life is short and we have never too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are traveling the dark journey with us. Oh be swift to love, make haste to be kind.” (Henri Frederic Amiel)
  • We take risks: “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” (T. S. Eliot)
  • We take charge: “Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.” (Helen Keller)
  • We celebrate: “The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.” (Oprah Winfrey)

Dance, sing, laugh and celebrate because life is short and you deserve to be happy.

Survival > Existence,


Related Posts:

Are You Still Struggling With the Loneliness of Life After Cancer

Coping with Cancer Anger

Running on Empty – Coping with Cancer Stress

Meditation Monday – Being Present with 9/11




Pam's picture


This is beautiful Debbie. You make me realize I’m not alone in my feelings.


Debbie's picture

That’s Exactly Why I Write This Blog

Dear Pam:

I’m so glad my post made you feel supported and less alone.. That’s why I write and keep this blog going. Have a beautiful day and please come back again.

Survival > Existence,


PS: If you are interested, please make sure to join my mailing list (hit the “I Want More” tab above.) It’s good to be in the loop!


marie's picture


Wonderful piece Debbie. The Stevie Wonder quote really struck me. I can so identify with the paradox of time flying by even if we are stuck in the middle of what seems like endless grief.


Debbie's picture

Time Flies


Thanks so much, Marie. I love this quote too. Time really does fly, whether we’re having fun or suffering grief.

Survival > Existence,



Nancy's Point's picture

Hi Debbie,

Hi Debbie,
Three years ago was my “summer that wasn’t”. I remember waiting desperately for October to arrive – that’s when chemo ended. Time goes by quickly, though sometimes we can’t see this truth because of what we are experiencing at that moment. I surely couldn’t see that truth that summer. No matter what, time is so precious isn’t it? Nice piece. Thank you.


Debbie's picture

Time as a Stream Carrying Me Out & Through Bad Times

Hi Nancy:

Sorry for the delay in answering, I was getting a little summer vacation R&R! Isn’t it great to be well beyond that “summer that wasn’t?” Whenever I’m struggling, I visualize time as a stream that carries me through, no matter what else happens. Time is definitely precious, but it also is what moves us through and out of some of the worst times of our lives.

Survival > Existence,



sheila shelton's picture

5 year mark

on Aug 28th it will be 5 years since surgery. it is kind of scary because you won’t be seeing the doctors as much and one has to get on with life. i appreciate the comments on “cancer being a solo journey”. thanks Debbie for your encouraging messages. it really does help to “talk” with others in the same situation. have a blessed day.


Debbie's picture

Finding a Crowd That Completely “Got It”

Hi Sheila:

Cancer puts us in a very strange bubble, doesn’t it? If we are lucky, we have friends and family who want to be there with us, but can only offer so much support. I remember feeling alone in a crowd and then I remember how extremely happy and relieved I was when I found a crowd that completely “got it.”

Moving beyond treatment is a huge transition. I’m glad you’re here for encouragement and sharing.

Thank you for being here and your kind words. I wish you a blessed day too!


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