• Mark Pajak

Candy Bar.


Woman continuing her daily routine of yoga

About 30 years ago Jimmy Buffett recorded an album called Fruit Cakes on which he sang a song called “Fruit Cakes In The Oven.” At the beginning of the song, he implies that he is uncertain about what is going on in the world around him. At one point in what I have perceived to be an admonishment of that which he sees, he screams “I don’t want a 12 Pound Nestle Crunch for $25 dollars – I want my Junior Mints!”

Ahh, the allure and beauty of simplicity.

Let me make this clear so that we are all on the same page: The biggest reason that I take my medications, watch my diet, exercise and keep my fingers crossed about my blood numbers is because I want to live longer.

That is about as simple as it gets. Not much mystery to glean from such a statement. I imagine that the reason why most of us put up with life’s pain, fear, uncertainty and challenges is because we want to live longer. There is a strong desire to see the next sunrise.

So how does a 12lb candy bar and wanting to live longer relate? Hmmm.

Prior to my cancer diagnosis, I figured that what came my way was the “way” it was supposed to be. The choices that I had made seemed to be working out just fine. Yes, there were worries and there were some trying times such as a brief period of unemployment, a bout with some injuries, concerns regarding parenting - those sorts of things. Overall, however, life was good. I was focused on the 12lb candy bar.

And then one day I was made acutely aware of my mortality. Sitting across the desk from a doctor who told me I had cancer got my attention. I was confronted with mortality as never before. Immediately I had a better understanding about a “this all ends” mindset. Why did this come as such a surprise? Why did a cancer diagnosis make me better understand the lack of control and the impermanency of my life? All of a sudden, there was a different perspective on the issues and topics that had been occupying my mind. In a manner of speaking, I asked myself the question “how am I supposed to believe in and endorse a 12lb Nestle Crunch?”

Simplicity. The beauty in understanding our mortality is in its simplicity. We live and then we die. In between the two, we are often confronted with the allure of a 12lb candy bar.

It is so very easy to forget what a miracle life is. Consider that when we see a baby being born, we can’t help but acknowledge the miracle. One of the first statements/thoughts out of our mouths or in our head upon seeing a newborn is - Wow, what a miracle!

Through the bombardment of information from various media and educational influences, I was repeatedly told that I was in charge/in control. If I worked hard enough and applied my talents effectively, I could decide how big and what kind of a candy bar I would get to enjoy. Somehow simplicity was forgotten. The focus changed and the definition of miracle changed. I began to believe that the miracle was not in HAVING the candy bar but that it was most certainly tied to the SIZE of the candy bar.

When I was first diagnosed, I immediately began to ask for more time. I did not want to see what I had accomplished and what I had worked for all my life lost or end. I still had work to be done. I had places to travel, people to connect with and experiences to enjoy. I wanted a bigger candy bar. By golly I DESERVED a bigger candy bar.

I suspect that my thoughts fall right in line with what most of us thought upon diagnosis. It was scary to confront and accept Multiple Myeloma. Like a slap in the face, a limited lifetime had to be acknowledged. The expected 12lb candy bar “life-time” was gone. In moving forward, I had to redefine my thoughts concerning the value of a “candy bar.”

Through much self-debate and pondering I have come to understand that the soundness of my life, its’ value and purpose is not tied to its “weight.” The value is the “candy bar” itself. The miracle is life itself. No measuring stick of any sort can remove the miracle. A 2# candy bar is as miraculous as a 12# candy bar.

Having Multiple Myeloma for the past 6.5 years has allowed me to embrace this understanding. I can still become very morose when I fall prey to the “grading” of my life as defined by achieving or not achieving a certain length of time or stature in order to feel satisfied. I can easily forget that it is not about the size of the candy bar.

Living with cancer has provided me with a clearer perspective about life itself and in the acceptance of the candy bar given.

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