More reminders cancer doesn’t discriminate

Every time I hear of someone famous dying of cancer I’m reminded it doesn’t discriminate. Last week it was David Bowie. This week it’s Alan Rickman. Curiously, both died at the age of 69. I’ll comment on that in a second, but first…

Both knew fame and fortune. Neither was overweight. (Obesity is blamed for increasing cancer risk, and it very well might, but being thin and in shape is no protection from the disease now is it? There’s no shortage of people, both famous and not, who were otherwise within normal weight but still fell victim to cancer. Famous ones include Paul Newman, Patrick Swayze, Audrey Hepburn, Erma Bombeck and Farah Fawcett, just to name a few.)

Yet, I’m always shocked when I hear someone who I feel has lived a relatively charmed life because they’ve not only been in the limelight but are skinny is stricken with the disease. I know their status doesn’t exempt them from troubles that “normal” people have, but somehow I still find it shocking it can find its way into their lives.

And to be taken at 69. A teenager or 20 year old may think that sounds “old.” Once upon a time I know I did. Maybe because I’m closer to that age now I don’t. Or maybe it’s because I know a lot of vibrant 60 year olds who still have a lot of life left in them.

But I also know of a lot of people (again, both famous and otherwise) who don’t live past their 60s thanks to the Big C invading their bodies. Heck, in Patrick Swayze’s case he didn’t even make it to his 60s.

Now David Bowie and Alan Rickman are added to the Didn’t Make It Past 60s list. Below is how old the others I mentioned above (plus a few others) made it to before cancer claimed them. Where applicable I also noted what kind of cancer felled them.

  • Audrey Hepburn: 63 (colon cancer)
  • Babe Ruth: 53 (nasopharynx cancer)
  • Bob Marley: 36 (malignant melanoma)
  • Donna Summer: 64 (lung cancer not related to smoking, like what my mom died from)
  • Farah Fawcett: 62 (anal cancer)
  • Gilda Radner: 43 (breast cancer)
  • Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis: 64 (lymphoma, non-Hodgkin’s like what I had)
  • Paul Newman: 83 (lung cancer)
  • Patrick Swayze: 57 (pancreatic cancer)

You know what all this reminds me? Don’t take life for granted. You’re not owed it. You’re not guaranteed it. You’re not entitled to it.

Every day is a gift. It should be respected. Savored. Cherished. Lived to the fullest.

It should be crammed with as much happiness as you can stand. If something doesn’t bring you joy, you don’t need it.

It should be filled with laughter. It really is the best medicine for just about anything that might be ailing you.

And love. Love should always, always, always be at the center of life.

Because life is never going to last as long as you want it to, and you’re rarely going to get warning when the end is near. And even if you do, you won’t be ready for it to be over.

But if you get a chance to fight to enjoy it a little bit longer? Well, all I know is how I’ve reacted to such fortune. It must be like how winning a mega jackpot in the lottery feels. That’s how it feels for me at least. Having had more time with Wayne, Mr. Meow, Murph, Tabby and all my friends? Golden moments. Priceless memories. Absolutely priceless.







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