The Value of Time
(From the Glow Blog)
A few years ago, while treatment was still an option, I accompanied my friend Elisa to one of her chemo sessions at NYU Medical Center. We gossiped and joked around for the two plus hours during which she sat patiently allowing them to inject poison into her body.
As if by rote, we fell back immediately into our old High School personalities: Me, the nerd, curious about every medication and every procedure she had already endured in the past year since her diagnosis. Her, the drama queen, laughing with glee at my curiosity and telling tales to the nurses who stopped by to adjust her dials.
A lull in the conversation brought us back to the recent changes in my life.
“Do you regret it?” She asked in her usual brash way.
“Oh, I don’t know,”she said incredulously “Everything you gave up! Having a real job. Having adult conversations. Making real decisions. Making real money. Oh my goodness, Günce, all that you have worked for!!! Don’t you miss it?”
“Hey.” I say, mock-hurt. “I changed 4 diapers today and got vomited on only once. I’m accomplishing things…”
Yet there was no denying her words. And some small doubts lingered. In this age of “leaning in” and striving for it all – I had taken the off-ramp in a big way. Having just earned a promotion to Executive Director in one of the most prestigious investment banks in the world, I had quit my job at a moment’s notice. I hung up my multiple phone sets. Shut down my 4 screens. I turned in my blackberry. And simply walked away.
And for what?
To have a baby. To have the baby that my body had forcefully and repeatedly denied me for the past four years through every fertility treatment possible. To give myself that one final chance at accomplishing the impossible: Of forcing my PCOS and endometriosis riddled body into performing this tiny miracle.
Because by then I had come to realize this simple fact:
Inertia is a choice.
Not making a decision IS a decision.
And I could no longer ignore that the one thing I wanted more than anything else was becoming more and more unlikely through the sheer passage of time.
After all, time is all we have. It is our most precious commodity. And how we spend it – that is what defines us.
My friend lost her battle to cancer this past Wednesday.
And when I say battle, I mean battle. Hell, Elisa waged an all-out war against her cancer. There was no treatment that she did not seek. No option she did not consider.
You may have read about her. Three years ago she and her husband got diagnosed with cancer within 9 days of each other. So unusual was this occurrence that it made international headlines. Her diagnosis was Stage IV breast cancer. A death sentence with a prognosis of a few months, on average. Yet, Elisa lived for more than three years. And she fought for every single day of those three years. She fought for every single minute.
She fought tooth and nail for this precious, priceless time. Time with her family. Time with her baby.
And the pain she was willing to endure for that little bit of extra time was astonishing. It was heart-breaking. It was awe-inspiring.
So I wish I could go back to that day and answer her differently. Answer her with what I now know to be true. Answer her with the knowledge that she herself taught me:
“No, Elisa. I have no regrets. Walking off that trading floor – that was the best decision I ever made. This time that I have with my babies, these years that I get to cuddle them and kiss them and tuck them in and hold their hands and soothe their hurts – nothing is more important than this. Not for me.”
Thank you, my friend, for showing us all the power and the beauty of an extraordinary ordinary life and time well-spend.