Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Last Lecture

Dennis Pyritz has started a book club on his blog called Being Cancer. What a great idea! The club is currently reading The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. I read it when it first came out and recently passed it on to a friend. Here are my answers to Dennis's questions from Part I & II of the book.

Initially Randy’s wife is opposed to his spending time on this speaking/writing project. How did you identify with this conflict between the needs of the sick person versus the needs of loved ones? To what extent do you think this conflict reflected gender orientations? How do you deal with self-fulfillment issues when you have a deadly disease?

Balancing your own needs and the needs of loved ones can be the most complicated part of this whole ordeal. I don't want to make this any harder for my family than it already is, but I know that putting my own needs first does just that sometimes. I try to listen and understand where they are coming from, but I need to make my own choices in the end.

An example of this was when I decided to go to Africa a month after having surgery to remove a tumor from my right lung. As all good mom's would, my mom worried and wanted to protect me from further harm. As a mother myself, I understood that. But the trip was very important to me and, in the end, I put my own needs and dreams first, despite the worry it was causing my mom.

Randy's decision to go ahead with his projects were the best thing for his family in the long run. Loved ones shouldn't be left with the sorrow of knowing that the person never realized their dreams.

“Kids - more than anything else - need to know their parents love them. Their parents don’t have to be alive for that to happen.” How does this theme resonate for you in dealing with illness and family? He worries that his young children will not remember him. What thoughts have you had about the legacy of memory that you might leave your children or grandchildren?

My son is an adult, but I have thought about what I can leave him so that he will continue to feel my love and presence in his life, even after I'm gone. (Adam, if you are reading his, I'm not planning for that to happen for a long time!!). With such a young family, I can understand why that was so important to Randy.

I keep a journal of letters that I've been writing to Adam since he was a baby. This blog will someday become a record of who I was and what was important to me. I've considered writing a children's book about my life for future grandchildren. I plan to call it The Story of Amma (what I want my grandchildren to call me).

Randy tells about how he was raised as a child. How did your own upbringing impact on how you handled your diagnosis and subsequent struggle with disease and treatment?

I think being an introvert has had more of an impact than my childhood has. While I do reach out to other people and am open about my illness, I have needed time to process each development on my own. An important part of that process for me has been writing about my experiences and thoughts along the way.

The second section deals with how Randy strove to achieve childhood dreams. How has that worked out for you? How did cancer affect your pursuit of your dreams?

I'm striving more to achieve adult dreams than childhood ones. It has taken me over 50 years to understand who I am and what is important to me. I do have a 'bucket list' but found that creating a list of what I had already done in my life was an even more meaningful exercise. It was confirmation to me of what a great life I've already had and it gave me hope that I will continue to have amazing experiences for a long time to come.

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