“I'm 16 and I have terminal cancer. I've created a bucket list because . . . “ So starts a blog by Alice from Ulverston [in northwest England] who has had cancer for four years, and says that it’s “gaining on me.”
Alice started her blog to “document this precious time with my family and friends, doing the things I want to do.” She adds, “I always make sure that there's something to look forward to and something to do.”
Here’s a very short section of her list, which she describes as things “I'm trying to get done before I have to go.”
*To go whale watching
*To train dolphins
*DONE - To swim with sharks
*DONE - To stay in the Chocolate room at Alton Towers
*DONE - To enter Mabel [her pet dog] in a Labrador show
*DONE - To have a purple Apple ipad
Monday Night Cancer Club is a Daily Kos group focused on dealing with cancer, primarily for cancer survivors and caregivers, though clinicians, researchers, and others with a special interest are also welcome. Volunteer diarists post Monday evenings between 8-9 PM ET on topics related to living with cancer, which is very broadly defined to include physical, spiritual, emotional and cognitive aspects. Mindful of the controversies endemic to cancer prevention and treatment, we ask that both diarists and commenters keep an open mind regarding strategies for surviving cancer, whether based in traditional, Eastern, Western, allopathic or other medical practices. This is a club no one wants to join, in truth, and compassion will help us make it through the challenge together.
I’m sure the idea of creating a list of things you want to get done in life is pretty old, much older than the 2008 movie that made the specific term popular. In the movie ”The Bucket List,” two men with terminal cancer, played by Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, escape a cancer ward and go on a road trip, intent on accomplishing a wish list of things they want to get done before they “kick the bucket.”
It’s worthwhile for you to think about making a list of things you would like to do while you can. Making such a to-do list, a.k.a. “bucket list,” can help crystallize your thoughts and ideas about what’s important to you as a person. It can also turn vague notions into a plan of action. Thus, you might wish to include items that are purposeful, meaningful, and potentially challenging (as if dealing with cancer weren’t already challenging!)
Some want bucket lists to be about showing courage, seeking inspiration, breaking through fears, and living passionately. I think your bucket list should be about whatever you want it to be, but I would suggest that you might use it to think of enhancing your creativity and your enjoyment of living. Accomplishing your bucket list should represent your own unique expression of what it means to be you, to be alive, and to be reaching out to experience the bigger world.
One of my friends died a couple of years ago from endometrial cancer. She was in her early 80s. I never talked to her about a bucket list, but in the last year of her life, she was attending every Shakespeare performance she could persuade anyone to take her to, and she was starting to learn French.
If you search online for ideas for your bucket list, you’ll find many ideas under this heading that beckon you to exotic locales and challenging feats of bravery or endurance. Many of these lists are way beyond the means of most of us, both financially and physically.
I don’t want to suggest limiting yourself from any challenges, but I would propose a third aspect to consider: living your life to the fullest. This is often more about the daily facets of life that mean the most to your mental and physical well-being, such as loving interactions with those who mean the most to you; and learning to value the positives of your life, even if you can only focus on a couple of them.
So, your bucket list need not be some exotic (and likely expensive) vacation. It need not be some psychologically and physically challenging accomplishment. It could be something as simple and practical as going through your drawer (or computer file) of old photos, to date and label them as best you can.
Here are some other suggestions I’ve culled from various sources which may inspire you when you create or re-consider your own bucket list:
>Pursue a hobby or interest which has been tickling your brain for a while, whether it’s playing the guitar, or learning some needlework. If you take up drumming, for instance, it’s also likely to give you some stress-relief!
>Learn to meditate, if you don’t already. It’s not only good for stress relief, it’s also good for focusing your mind and quieting your thoughts.
>Think about leaving a legacy. Consider what you will leave behind, which others will remember you for. Alice from Ulverston was so motivated. She said, “When I do go, no one will ever be able to say that I didn't do anything with my life.” On her list: To get everyone eligible to join a bone marrow register.
>Writing your own memoirs is may be more your style. Let your children, young friends, or nieces and nephews know what it was like growing up during Haight-Ashbury, during the development of counter-culture. Or, what it was like before cell phones and computers ruled our time and interactions. What were your parents, your grandparents like? Did you move a lot? What were those geographic differences like? What books, teachers, or experiences molded your view of the world, and influenced how you understood things?
>Publish a book. (Hah! that is on my bucket list!) The experience of writing is ultimately a venture in learning to express yourself, and learning to use your brain in both creative and rational ways.
>Plant a tree somewhere you know it will last, or find a place where you can sponsor a plaque in your own name.
>Make a difference in the lives of others. This may be simply doing random acts of kindness for strangers. Or think about joining a community service project or political group which makes a difference in people’s lives. (Political? Kossaks?)
>Volunteer in your local community. Help in a soup kitchen when you can. Join “Habitat for Humanity” and see what kind of work you can help with locally.
>Sleep on the beach with -or without- your loved one.
>Ride in a hot air balloon.
>Try to see an ivory-billed woodpecker.
>Attend Netroots Nation.
>Eat (or learn to cook) a special food.
>Read a specific book.
Alice from Ulverston admits that while some of the things on her list “are possible, some will remain a dream.”
Spending time dreaming should be on your list.
>Learn enough origami to fold a thousand paper cranes.
Though this is sometimes construed as folding them to make a wish come true, the actual Japanese awareness is the granting of long life. According to traditional culture in Japan, the crane is considered a symbol of long life. Cranes were thought to live for a 1,000 years.
You may have heard of Sadako and the 1,000 paper cranes, a true story about a young girl from Hiroshima who suffered the affects of “radiation poisoning,” developing leukemia. In her hospital room, as the leukemia affected her more, she resolved to fold a thousand paper cranes, using every scrap of paper she could find to make them. Sadly, she didn’t get all of them folded –one story says that she got 744 made before she succumbed to her cancer.
Her classmates were inspired to use origami cranes to raise money for a memorial that was established for her and other young victims of the atomic bomb at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. At the base of her statue, their words are inscribed:
"This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace in the world."
As a consequence, the long strings of paper cranes frequently draped over the Peace statue have become a symbol of peace.
What’s on your bucket list at present?
As Alice says, “You only have one life ... live it!”