Seize the day – Making meaning in your life when you have cancer

I received a letter from a Dr. Evan Lipson from John Hopkins University.

He writes:

“I’m a melanoma specialist with an interest in how cancer patients add meaning and fulfillment to their lives.  The idea behind the Ultrasounds project fascinates me.  In the same spirit, over the past few years, I have been collecting audio interviews with cancer patients about the unique and meaningful ways they “add life to their days.”  The stories are edited and collected on a website,  I invite you to check out the site and listen to some of the patient stories.   Though the project is still in development, I hope to turn it into a resource for patients dealing with cancer and the friends, family members and medical professionals who care for them.”

I did go to the site and found some beautiful stories about people who are “making meaning” with their lives through projects that help other people.

As I’ve mentioned before, this idea of making meaning resonates with me. It is so easy to just become a victim of disease. You become passive, spending your time in waiting rooms and going for treatment. The fatigue and depression begins to take over.  You become your disease. Of course there may be periods, short or long, where all you can do is just survive. That in and of itself, is a heroic act.

Once I got through the crisis and settled in with my disease  being able to write became something that gave my life additional meaning, focus and identity. I’m not sure I can express it well, but it is as if the act of creation gives me substance and purpose.

Each person will find their own way of making  meaning. It may be to spend time in a beautiful place, spending time with someone you care about, creating something or reaching out to help others, just to name a few.  We all want to have meaning in our life, but facing one’s own mortality can sometimes bring this  desire into focus very quickly. As Dr. Lipson’s site is a resource for those who make meaning through reaching out and helping others, Ultra Sounds will hopefully be a resource for those who make meaning through creation.

How do you make meaning?


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