We have shared some incredible stories with you of brave people with terminal illnesses checking off incredible items from their bucket lists. It’s so inspiring to see these people– who are suffering so terribly– make the most of their final days on Earth. But one woman, 46-year-old Rachel Huff, just published an open letter explaining why she isn’t making a bucket list.
Rachel, a mom of 2, is dying of Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare type of cancerous tumor. Doctors have told her she has anywhere from 6 to 18 months to live. But Rachel ins’t making any bucket lists. In fact, she’s still going to work. She penned the following letter, titled “A Note to My Fellow Working Moms, As I Near the End of My Life,” to explain why.
I love being a mother more than anything. It is my reason to live. As parents, we are always working. Adding a paid job to the mix, in my opinion, brings additional fulfillment as I get to accomplish more on a bigger scale. In my current position working on a university campus, I love seeing the bright and engaging college students and hope that I can add to their experience.
My home job of “mom” is much more challenging now that I have been told I have metastatic cancer in my bones. On the one hand, I want to spend all of my time with my babies (who are 12 and 17), and on the other hand, they need to live their lives, too. People, trying to be helpful, say to me, “Oh, can I take the kids for you?” as if somehow I need a break from them. I want to scream, “No! I want to savor their faces for as long as I can.” And of course, they still go to school and participate in a million activities that I won’t take away from them.
Really, all I want to do is cuddle with them in bed and tell them how much I love them. The thought that I won’t be here to see them graduate from college or get married makes me so incredibly sad. I can hardly allow myself to think that I will never get to see my grandchildren. Just writing this brings the tears.
So here I am. My doctors say I have six to 18 months left. No one really knows the future, and we are doing everything we can to keep me around as long as possible. It almost doesn’t seem real. Yet I have seen the scans, and I know what is coming.
People say to me, “Why are you still working?” I am not quite sure what else they think I should be doing. My family is not going to sit at home with me every minute of every day. The kids have school and my husband has work. To be honest, sitting at home just makes me depressed. When I am at work, I am engaged and driven. So my response is, “Yes! As long as I am able, I will be going to work.”
My life currently consists of a day-by-day existence. Each day I wake up and my body tells me if it is a good day or not. A good day means that I can get of bed unassisted. My pain is tolerable and I can get myself dressed. For a consummate planner, this has been a challenging learning curve. Can I plan that cruise at Thanksgiving? Nope, as I do not know what my counts will be and the potential for bad germs is high. Can I attend my nephew’s college graduation in May? Potentially, yes, if I buy a refundable ticket and agree to sit in a wheelchair as I have no idea how my body will be feeling by then.
I find myself trying to organize and control the things I can, like cleaning my desk or next, my closet. I am not giving things away per se, but I am getting rid of my “stash,” the things that I have been saving for the future, like magazine articles or clothes that I have not worn in more than three years. I am also organizing my files to make it easier for someone going through my stuff. In all reality, I should have done this a long time ago. So thank you, cancer, for propelling me forward to get this done!
Another thing this diagnosis has done has been to lift any filters that I may have had before. I am not saying that I was dishonest before, but I have released my “Should I really say that?” button. I tell people I love them way more than I ever did before this all started. When I say something, I mean it. I don’t hesitate to give a compliment. I reach out to friends to check on them. All I have is this moment and I don’t know when I will get a chance again to express a sentiment.
So where do I go from here, you ask? I spoke with my oncologist today and we had a serious talk about the future and what is looks like for me. My best advice for you: Live your life.
Yes. That’s it. It’s so simple, but for many of us, it’s the one thing we’re not doing with our precious time.
So many of us are waiting for something else to happen: when I get that job, make more money, have more time … I do not get the luxury of saying those things anymore.
This—is—it. This point in time.
For me, that looks like getting up to make breakfast for my daughter, driving my son to school, and going to work. I will continue to do this until I cannot do it anymore. Being able to do these everyday things gives me strength. It gives me purpose. I live in the every day more and more now—in those tasks I previously took for granted, and now am so grateful to be able to get up and do.
My future is completely unclear and what my doctor and I talked about today was when I will know that the end is close. What a conversation to have, right? Is this scary? Holy cow, yes. Yet, I’m resolved to keep moving forward putting one foot in front of the other. And yes, I’m working. Those tasks I previously took for granted, I am now so grateful to be able to get up and do. And I will continue to do them until I cannot do it anymore.
My advice to you is not to book that African safari quite yet. I am not advocating that you must fulfill those bucket list items right this minute. Rather, my request is to take a minute to revel in the every day and in those people who continue to show up in your life. When you do book that trip, make it the best one yet. As my doctors constantly remind me, we never know what is around the corner.
I will be here, drinking a cup of tea and celebrating another day that I get to be with my family, feeling supported by my friends and coworkers, making memories. Even little ones.
Maybe, if I’m lucky, my children will remember those the most.
Share this incredible mom’s words of wisdom today.