Living in the Present Moment

Vik - Brooksville, Florida
Entered on May 12, 2005

Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: carpe diem
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.


I am an Oncologist and privileged to care for people at the end of life. Despite all the pain and suffering that cancer brings, it also brings some unique gifts to those afflicted and by proxy to their care-givers. In many it brings a strange clarity of purpose and puts all our priorities in the right place. I will never forget my 45 year old patient with terminal lung cancer whose only wish was to live another 6 months to see his son graduate high school. Or the 70 year old who wanted to hold his soon to be born grand-son in his arms. Or the 19 year old with end stage cancer who wanted to get married to her high school sweetheart despite the terrible prognosis she faced.

I am often asked “How do you cope with so much suffering and death.” Part of the answer is that when I see so much suffering and pain around me-most of my problems seem trivial by comparison. So what if my 7 year old watched too much television, or that he won’t eat his greens. I am more accepting of other people’s shortcomings and those of my own as well. In the grand scheme of things “I am OK-in fact I am doing very well”. As my old professor used to say when he was asked “How are you doing” His reply used to be “I can’t complain. I am up, able to get around and take nourishment.” This puts these basic human actions in sharp contrast to several of our patients for whom these basic human necessities are a luxury. I will never forget the delight in my patients’ voice as he enjoyed a bag of pop corn a month after he finished a long course of tough chemotherapy that made him lose all his taste for food.

I have seen the human and vulnerable side of those afflicted. I have cried with my patient who told me her mothers’ day story of baking a cake with her two daughters despite being tired and worn-out from her chemotherapy as she told them that it might be her last Mothers’ day with them. There is such honesty in these interactions that our common humanness shines through. Stripped of our titles, illusions and pretensions we are all more alike than we know. Our needs, desires, aspirations, anxieties and fears have a deep common thread. The most important things in life are still the boring and mundane daily routines that we ignore as we get engrossed in our daily struggle for a living.

I believe we take too much for granted and overlook the little pleasures of life as we chase our big goals and dreams. Lets’ not stop dreaming and aiming for the stars but lets still enjoy the journey as none of us truly know how much longer we have. There are no guarantees in life except the present moment.