The cancer crash course in priorities

Greeting card with two people saying "It appears someone invited a lot of old people to my high school reunion."A while back, I received an invitation to my 35th high school reunion. (Let’s just skip the number of years it’s been since I’ve attended high school and discuss the invitation itself, shall we?) I’ve been invited to prior reunions–I was in the graduating class, so by definition I’m on the list–but I’ve never gone.

I’m as curious as the next gal to see what’s happened to all those people I’ve had no contact with for 35 years. And yes, I take full responsibility for allowing those friendships to lapse. But I haven’t been motivated to allocate my time or funds to a reunion across the country. This year, I have the perfect excuse not to attend: I have leukemia. I no longer have the energy to spend a weekend reliving old times with people I haven’t seen in ages.

There’s another, more compelling reason for me not to go. It’s the bucket list I don’t have. I can’t see “attending high school reunion” anywhere near the top of my non-existent list. Now that I have cancer, I have given myself permission to focus my limited reserves on activities I would enjoy. Would I relish seeing old friends? Probably. I wonder what’s happened to them, and I wish them well. Still, I’d rather spend my limited time and energy with the people who are important to me now.

These reasons are of no matter since the timing of the event is problematic. The reunion falls in the middle of a potential vacation. l don’t envision interfering with this allocated time to attend a reunion. My health has interfered with so many of the best-laid vacation plans in recent years that this time away is especially precious to me.

I was in hospital when the first reunion email arrived so I hadn’t responded by the time I received the second prodding. This week, I informed the organizer I would not be coming. I didn’t mention the leukemia, I didn’t mention the difficulty planning that far ahead, I just said I’d be on a long-planned vacation. This was his response:

Hi Annie,

Sorry you can’t make it; hope to see you at the 40th!

[N.B.: Excellent use of a semi-colon, don’t you think?]

John’s response was unknowingly ironic given my current situation. I thanked him politely and that was that, but my inside voice was screaming to say more. Were I not wearing my ill-fitting socially appropriate hat, I’d have written back:

Dear John:

I’m afraid you’ll have to count me out for the 40th. I may well be dead by then, but if I’m not, I can assure you that the reunion will not be any higher on my bucket priority list 5 years hence than it is now. I wish you well and trust you’ll all have a better time without me. Really, I’d just be a downer. Imagine how quickly I’d kill any conversation by disclosing I have leukemia.

All the best,


I don’t know about you, but I feel better already.


4 thoughts on “The cancer crash course in priorities

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s