How To Live In Gratitiude
Living Each Day With Gratitude
How Diane Legg lives life to the fullest—despite a stage 4 lung cancer diagnosis
It was game 5 of the 2004 championship series, the Red Sox versus the Yankees. I remember watching the game with my husband, our three boys asleep in bed. We were on the edge of our seats. It was tied in the eighth inning. At around 9 o'clock the phone rang, and I answered it. I don't remember anything else about that night, but that phone call will be etched in my mind forever: It was my doctor calling to tell me I had lung cancer.
A few months earlier, I had strained my back lifting my youngest son. During the routine examination, my doctor discovered a nodule on my left lung. He ordered a CT scan to check it out but assured me I had nothing to worry about, because I was healthy and even though I'd smoked casually as a young adult, I had virtually no risk factors.
I was shocked by the news, and of course I wanted to treat the cancer aggressively; I wanted my life back. I wanted to be with my family. And so I decided to have surgery that would remove half of my left lung. I also underwent four debilitating rounds of chemotherapy.
But when the cancer resurfaced in both lungs 2 years later and was diagnosed as stage 4, I knew that more treatment would diminish my quality of life, not save it. I decided to postpone further treatment, starting a watchful wait with my team of doctors, because I wanted to be an active participant in my own life, not drained dry by the drugs. Around the same time, I made a decision to forgo worry and fear. I chose instead to do what I could to be present and happy in every single moment.
As a kid, I spent a lot of time at my grandparents' dairy farm in upstate New York. There I learned how to be mindful and appreciate life's little joys, like a clear night sky. But then life got in the way, and I began to wear my role as a busy employee, wife, and mother as a badge of honor. Planning for the future became my singular goal; what was happening in the moment took a backseat.
Luckily, it's impossible not to have a monumental shift in perspective when you're dealing with an incurable diagnosis. With it came the realization that nothing is guaranteed, that I needed to slow down and pay attention to what's going on right now.
So I quit my job and dedicated my energy to the things I love—my family, biking, and gardening. Yes, I've had moments of anxiety. I'd be grocery shopping and start crying, wondering who would be here to take care of my kids. But the present moment served as my touchstone—I could be with them right now.
I decided to put energy toward something worthwhile and began participating in events like half-marathons and the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge bike-a-thon to raise money for lung cancer research and advocacy. Training also became a form of therapy for me. I cried when I ran, I meditated, and I prayed. With every stride, I focused on my inner power. Soon I was completing races I would have thought impossible even when I had two healthy lungs. Each time I crossed a finish line, I felt strong. Being able to do these events while raising money for charity has been a blessing, reminding me that even though I'm sick, I'm still strong and able to help those in need.
In a way, things have changed for the better for me since that painful phone call. I've stopped worrying about what could happen and simply enjoy what is happening. Whereas I could have chosen to sit on a couch and feel sorry for myself, instead I opened my mind and soul to receiving joy.
Staying in the present has allowed me to find happiness, even when facing uncertainty. And living this way has helped me rediscover all the little moments of gratitude that each day has to offer.