Do You Live For Today?

I came upon this story while I was on vacation. Actually, I remember the exact moment… I had just finished swimming in the lake with the boys.  I opened my Blackberry and there in my inbox, a friend of mine had sent me the story of Leah Siegel. It moved me to tears, and although it’s a very tough one to read, I want to share her story. I blogged about it today to make you think about your own life, your values, and which direction you want to go. I want today’s Blog post to be interactive. I want to know your take. Stay with me ’till the end….

The Headline read:  “Cancer victim tried to pack a lifetime of mothering into two years

Here are a few excerpts:

“She tried to fill their minds with beautiful memories, of princess parties and water slide rides, pancakes at IHOP on Sunday mornings.

She longed to wrap her three children in a protective spell. She knew what was coming would leave a part of them forever empty.

That is why she fought so hard, enduring the blood transfusions and chemical burns and painful sores. She was haunted by the idea that her children would grow up without any memory of her.

But here, on this summer morning, Leah Siegel knew she was running out of time. As her husband walked into the bedroom, she spoke to him softly.

“I think I’m dying,” she said.

“I think so, too,” he said.

He crawled into bed beside her, and they were quiet.

From the moment doctors told Leah she had breast cancer in 2008 – stage four, “treatable but not curable” – she worried most about leaving her children, Teagan, then 4; Wyatt, almost 2; and Oliver, 3 weeks old.

“I just need 10 years,” she told her oncologist.

Leah, then 41, was diagnosed just days after giving birth to Oliver. The cancer already had spread to her liver and bones. Doctors gave her two to three years.

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She quit her job as a sports producer with ESPN , where she had earned three Emmys, and began a crushing regimen of doctors’ appointments and chemotherapy. This while feeding newborn Oliver every three hours, answering endless questions about Sleeping Beauty, and defusing arguments over the Lightning McQueen sippy cup.

Weeks after Leah’s diagnosis, her head bald, her body frail, she sat on her couch, cradling baby Oliver in her arms.

“It breaks my heart that they may not get to know me,” she said.

She looked down at Oliver and sobbed.

“That’s half the reason I keep fighting, damn it. I’m going to stay alive long enough for them to have some kind of memory of me.

“It doesn’t have to be a big moment. Eating grilled cheeses together, coloring chalk on the sidewalk – I don’t care what it is. Just something …”

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Leah told doctors she would try any treatment, no matter the side effects, no matter how hard.

She started writing as a way to keep family and friends informed. She wrote about Teagan’s continued love of princesses, and how she turned every backyard stick into a magic wand. She wrote about how Wyatt learned to ride a bicycle, then moved on to riding Gracie, the family’s 50-pound Doberman mix.

About how Oliver went from sleeping all the time to crawling to taking his first steps …

As she wrote, Leah couldn’t help thinking … I’ll have my memories. But will they have theirs?

By this past spring, Leah began to panic.

“Nothing is working,” she cried to her childhood best friend.

Now it was the family’s turn to say goodbye.

One after another, relatives filled into the room, sat beside Leah’s bed, talked, laughed, reminisced. Then they shuffled out with a nod or a wave, leaving the heavy hospital door to swing shut behind them.

Leah’s mother, Myra MacPherson, sat at the end of her daughter’s bed. She was nervous, worried that she might say the wrong thing.

They started talking about Leah’s husband, how tender he had been.

“I never knew that kind of love could exist,” Leah told her mother.

MacPherson tried not to cry, but tears came.

“I’m sorry, Leah,” she said.

“Oh, Mom, you can’t help that,” she replied gently. MacPherson bent over and kissed her daughter on the forehead.

“Goodbye,” she said softly.

“Goodbye,” Leah replied.

As MacPherson walked out of the room, her shoulders shook with sobs.

A few days after her initial goodbye, Teagan asked to see her mother again.

Her father was conflicted. Leah, heavily sedated, sometimes breathed with difficulty and moaned. He didn’t want to keep mother and daughter away from each other, but he didn’t want to frighten Teagan, either.

Finally, he decided to let her visit.

Teagan stepped into the room and saw her mother lying in bed, tubes taped to her arms, machines beeping behind her.

She walked over and climbed into her mother’s limp arms. “I love you, Mommy,” she whispered. Leah lay quietly, her eyes closed.

Teagan lingered in the room for about 20 minutes. Beside her mother’s bed, family photographs flashed across a digital frame. It caught Teagan’s attention. She walked over and began to narrate the images.

“Look, Mom, that’s us in Costa Rica.”

“That’s at Hailey’s house.”

“That’s me wearing the dress that Grandma Myra bought me.”

The pictures kept coming, and she described them one by one.

It was as if Teagan was telling her mother, I remember. I remember …

Leah Siegel died at 4:30 a.m. on Monday, July 26. She was 43.”

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Janie Thompson, Dallas News

Now that I have your attention, how does this story make you feel?

I’m going to take you down a different path. You see, this is where I sit on the fence. When I read Leah’s story, and unfortunately so many similar stories, it reminds me to live for today. To live in the moment. To let my house get messy, because spending time and making memories with my children are what’s important. It makes me want to swing for that massage or extra vacation, because you can’t take those things, those memories with you when you’re 6 feet underground. BUT, if you only live for today, and don’t live with a sense of responsibility and mindfulness, how will you enjoy the fruits of the labor in years to come? There has to be some planning and living for tomorrow involved. There is such a fine balance. One that I feel I still haven’t mastered.

Live for today? Or live for tomorrow? I’m on the fence.

What are your thoughts?

One things is for certain– tonight I will hold my children extra close, and pray for my family’s well being. Life is fragile.

xoxEDxox

15 Comments
  1. What a devastating story. I cried the whole way through. I think one must do both. Live for today and plan for tomorrow. You’re right it’s a fine balance. But you can’t live compeltely one way or the other. You have to live in the moment but you always need to plan for a rainy day. Money certainly doesn’t buy happiness that’s for sure but it does help.
    One thing is for sure too tonight i will hold my babies.
    Thank you for making us read Leah’s story.

  2. I used to only live for tomorrow and plan and save and be “mindful” as you wrote. But I was completely not enjoying anything. I was existing and not living. It’s a fine balance you’re right, but one that I think exists. This story is the saddest thing I’ve read.

  3. The obvious is that this story is very sad, heart wrenching and heart warming.
    The idea that our actions do influence our children’s memories from a very early stage is a reminder for the rest of our lives. The mother’s legacy is living inside her husband and children. What I find so amazing is that from tears and pain that we can derive so much appreciation and knowledge. I often subscribe to the theory that my Spouse and I should seize the moment but, in a responsible manner i.e. Save and Plan for the future but one must lay healthy seeds along the way. Making posive memories should be a way that we all can water these healthy seeds rather than with tears. Keep in mind-Love is the most inexpensive thing on the planet. The fortitude, strength, and power of this woman is what allowed her to carve out these memories-try and do it more naturally and effortlessly. The rewards are amazing.

  4. For this particular story, there are 2 parts of my life that matter before I respond- one as a professional financial advisor for over 10 years to women alone and secondly as a volunteer for the Look Good Feel Better program here in Montreal that teaches women living with cancer how to care for their skin, hair loss, eyelash loss and all the effects of cancer.

    Clearly, reading this story is sad and I had a hard time reading the screen because of my tears.
    Then I stepped back, sat down for a few minutes and thought…and thought…and thought.

    Life is not about what to do when you know you’re going to die; we’re closer to death every single day! Just because the unfortunate ones are actually given a more specific date then the rest of us, we are still one step closer to death every single day.

    As women, as moms, as sisters, aunts, best friends..whatever we are, we are human and we need to start acting more like humans instead of mechanical robots. Life is about today-the moment. That’s all you have. Embrace it. Enjoy it because the things that cost no money and are free are truly the ones that matter and will be remembered the most.

    Start your retirement planning the day you get your first job ( assuming in your 20’s). If you can put even $25.00 away in a non-taxable plan, you can easily be a millionaire at retirement. ( obviously it takes a bit more work than that, but THIS is where to start).

    The day you have children, get life insurance for yourself. Make sure that the amount insured is 10 times the value of a house today. Eg.: If you live in a house today worth $300,000.00, make sure you get insured for at least $2.5million. ( sounds like a lot but just think, houses 35 years ago cost what a car does today…inflation, cost of living)

    Once you have “paid yourself” as I always say and you have written your financial/retirement plan make sure you include in there the ” what ifs”. Include cancer, heart attack, stroke and alzheimers. Calculate how much it would cost you and your family if you were struck by it.
    One in five women in Canada alone will develop some form of cancer in their life.

    Paying yourself first ensures that if you do live for a very long time, you can enjoy your life for your ENTIRE life. Your children, grandchildren, heck even your great-grandchildren.

    If you are unfortunate, and do get sick, you will have all the proper care and insurances that will cover your costs and not deplete your money that you want to leave as an inheritence. Even worse, if you do survive ( technology IS helping us live longer anyway), then again, you will not have depleted your money.

    You die everyday a little more. You should live your life everyday like you are dying and do what the heck you want to do but remember; while you live your life as if you are dying tomorrow, tomorrow just may come around again and again and again…you WANT to have your tomorrows just as good as your today. Don’t start living when you’re told you are dying.
    We were all born to die.

  5. It’s such as you go through my thoughts! Material understanding so much about that, that you composed your guidebook there or anything. I have faith that you merely is able to do with a few Percentage to push the message household a bit, even so apart from that, that is perfect weblog. A terrific read. Let me definitely be back.

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