And the Doctor Said, ‘Go Live Your Life…’


A few weeks ago, I went to visit my friend Nancy.

She didn’t ask me to come, I just went. I went because she told me the doctor (actually, multiple doctors) had told her there was nothing left to be done for her. Her cancer — the disease she had long kept at bay — had finally gotten the best of her.

She looked me in the eye and said, “What do you suggest I do?”

I looked at her. Her beautiful eyes locked with mine and I felt as if my heart were on a magnetic wave with hers. “Good question,” I replied.

What does one do when something like cancer gets the best of you? What does one do when there is nothing left to do, but enjoy what’s left? What does one look forward to when there is almost no forward to look towards?

I asked her, “What do you enjoy? What brings you joy?”

“Being with friends,” she said. “Being by the ocean. Letting the sun hit my face.”

“And so,” I said, “Let’s do that…”

After I left Nancy, I thought a lot about what would I do in a similar situation. What would my list look like if she and I switched places?

I had just recently read a piece online where a nurse shared what kids with terminal cancer said was on their list. It really stuck with me. It’s interesting, isn’t it? What sticks with you when everything else falls away… When your back, so to speak, is up against the wall.

Do you know what you would do if the doctor said to you, “Just go and live. Do what you want to do. Do what brings you joy”?

Like my friend, I’d gather those who have brought out the best in me. I’d gather those who rooted for me when my back was up against the wall. I’d throw a party for them and for me.

I, too, would go to the ocean, put my feet in the sand, and feel the sun on my face. I’d eat French fries (really crispy ones) and chips and guacamole.

I’d hang with my kids and tell stories—funny stories—about the best of times. I’d play games with them. Uno, Candyland, Chutes and Ladders… (I’m sure they’d finally let me win.)

I’d dance with anyone and everyone who would ask me. I’d make a playlist for my kids and friends of all the songs that I love with the hope that they would play it and dance to it. I’d write notes to people I love and I’d give stuff away to those very same people. I’d ask someone to hold my hand and squeeze it tight.

Now, what wouldn’t I do?

I wouldn’t spend one more minute getting my hair done, scrolling through social media, or worrying about organizing my house.

I wouldn’t spend one more minute watching pundits scream at each other on television. I wouldn’t read one more book about someone else’s journey. I’d just rest in my own and marvel at it all.

That’s right. I’d take a deep breath and marvel. I’d marvel at what was, what is, and what will be. Sometimes shit happens and it gets the best of us. My friend’s gift to me was yet another reminder to get living.

“What are you waiting for?” I thought to myself. “Get living. Don’t wait until your back is up against the wall to dance, to gather, to be kind, to say what needs to be said, or to ask someone to hold your hand.”

We whittle away so much time these days listening to the noise. We spend so much time being voyeurs into other people’s lives, that we forget to live our own. That’s why this moment is a reminder to me to focus on living my own life, now. The time is now to define how I want my life to be. The time is now to speak up for what I believe in. The time is now for each of us to begin living our truths. Our lives are too precious to let the opportunity slip away.

As for my friend Nancy, well, a few friends did take her to the beach. She felt the sand on her toes and the sun on her face. Those who loved her came to visit. There were tears, and there were lots of expressions of love.

Last week, I went back to visit her. I told her how much I loved her, what a meaningful life she had led, and that my goal was to do the same in her honor. I held her hand. I squeezed it tight and she squeezed back.

Then, this past Thursday night, as I sat in my home watching yet another insane day of jaw-dropping news stories, the phone rang. The voice on the other end told me that my girlfriend had passed. I hung up the phone and I took a deep breath. I stared at my TV with pundits screaming about the latest tawdry news and remembered what I told myself about what really matters.

I turned off the noise on the TV and said out loud to no one in particular, “Life is short, Maria. Turn off the noise. Go get your living on.”

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