Catherine Durkin Robinson: Living with risk: Who decided patience was a virtue?

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“Waiting patiently was waiting taking up space.” – AWOLNATION

Who decided patience was a virtue? Why not action, determination, and grit? There’s not a problem in the world that doesn’t have a solution – sometimes we have to think, and act, outside the box to bring it about.

That’s what happened to me.

I always suspected, from an early age, that I would not grow to be an old lady. I don’t know how or why I had this notion, I just did and it fueled me to act. Refusing to wait around and just let things happen, I went after it instead.

Get busy living, or get busy dying.

A few months ago, I underwent genetic testing and discovered I’m missing a gene that helps protect bodies from breast cancer, primarily, but lots of other cancers, too. There aren’t many people with this missing gene. For a few weeks, I was the only one on record.

Then my mom underwent testing and, it turns out, she’s missing that gene as well.

Finally, we have something in common.

Good news: A mastectomy isn’t necessary. Bad news: Besides the whole “elevated risk” thing, I’m now similar to a guinea pig and will participate in tests and studies for the rest of my life.

This means visiting my friendly local cancer center more than usual, and I will continue to do so. Visiting such a place and not thinking about death is impossible.

Give it a try and see for yourself. I dare you.

We tell ourselves that in the end, something’s going to get all of us, right? If it isn’t cancer, it could be a car accident, a bad bean sprout from that raw vegan bar downtown, or a stalker could finally make good on his threats.


I’m not afraid of death. But the act of dying doesn’t look like much fun.

For some, death seems to come after a long battle, when the will to live is finally destroyed. That’s when everyone, including the person who’s dying, just sits and waits.

Waits for death to happen.


To be honest, I’m not the least bit interested.

I tackle life a bit differently than most, so I’ll probably have to leave it a bit differently than most. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but going quietly into that good night? No thanks.

I have a plan. But until then, what? More waiting.

This is usually the part in the script where the protagonist decides to turn her life around and go skiing in the Alps or something. She gets in touch with old friends, finds a European lover and tries a sporty new haircut.

All while Arctic Monkeys plays in the background.

The thing is, I had that life-altering experience, minus the European lover, when I was 14 and my parents divorced.

Arctic Monkeys wasn’t playing in the background. It was Synchronicity II by The Police.

I plotted out a different kind of life for myself, and as a result, I’m 45 with no bucket list. No itemized categorization of things to do or see before I die.

Of any kind.

Well, that’s not completely true. I would like to see my kids arrive at adulthood. Maybe publish a book.

In less than three years my boys will leave the nest, and there’s every reason to expect that I will live to see it, especially if I lay off those bean sprouts.

The book publishing thing? I’ve had my chance and decided to go another way.

So, I’m good. I’ve done my best in every arena, no regrets, truly at peace.

I am still uneasy looking at all those bald heads and vacant eyes around me. Brave warriors fighting to live. Some will make it, others won’t. You know that feeling when you’re stuck in a traffic jam and can’t see the problem up ahead? That’s how I feel when sitting in a cancer center’s waiting room.

Trying to be patient.

I will do more of this as I get older, so a solution must be found. I can’t avoid appointments, can’t avoid the waiting game before and after tests, can’t avoid the results of those tests.

I’m going to have to sit. And wait.

If I spend all that time thinking and writing, writing and thinking, I’m afraid I will go insane and take my family (and editors) with me.

After much thought, I finally came up with something to DO while all this nonsense swirls around me: total immersion, online Spanish lessons. Laugh if you will, but every problem has a solution and every waiting room has WiFi. The time I spend waiting can be spent learning the difference between nada and nadan, exercising my brain, and focusing on something other than the inevitable.

Get busy living or get busy dying.

Added bonus? I will soon be able to insult readers in two languages.

Catherine Durkin Robinson co-parents twin sons, organizes parents for advocacy purposes, writes syndicated columns, mentors kids, runs a few races, and investigates missing socks. Follow her on Twitter: @cdurkinrobinson. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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