Preparing for a big life Change
Suze and I have been downsizing since before our youngest son graduated high school. Somehow we came to the realization that once the kids were out of the house, we would be free to live wherever we wanted. As long as our work would allow it, we could explore a new lifestyle with less house and more adventure.
We sold our four bedroom home with the big yard and the full basement, and moved into a two bedroom condo. That was about three and half years ago. We’ve since downsized again into an 800 square foot apartment, but we see even further downsizing ahead.
We had all of the “stuff” you collect over 30 years of marriage. We had the equipment required to care for the house, yard, and cars. We had a garage full of bikes and toys. We had a basement full of fitness equipment and tools. We had boxes in the basement that we hadn’t opened since we moved into the house 16 years earlier.
In retrospect, the big life changes we are planning today started even earlier. In 2003, I was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. I was 40 years old. The next five years were tough on our little family.
The five year survival rate for people with stage 4 colon cancer isn’t good, but we were lucky. Though the cancer did spread to the liver, it was operable. Interestingly, the liver is unique in that it can regenerate. You can cut out a section of liver and it will grow back, good as new.
Three surgeries and two rounds of chemotherapy later, and I was cancer free. The follow-up blood tests and scans still continue today, but 15 years later, I am still cancer free. The ordeal seems a bit like a dream today - like the whole thing never really happened.
Our children were 13 and 7 at the time of the diagnosis. We tried to keep their lives as normal as possible over the years of treatment, but we know it wasn’t easy for them. In some ways the experience brought us closer together. For example, during chemo therapy, Fridays were difficult days at the end of a cycle of treatment. We started a tradition of picking up pizza on the way home from the oncology center every Friday night. We called it chemo pizza Friday, and we all looked forward to watching movies and eating pizza on those nights.
Suze and I joke that we spent more money on pizza than we did on medical care during that time. I had “chemo” brain, and have little memory of the movies we watched, but we were together and we look back on those Friday nights fondly. All-in-all, our family came out of it ok.
As a result of our experiences, we knew we couldn’t take for granted that we would retire at 65, and have 15 healthy years to travel and explore. We wanted to set ourselves up to live that life sooner. So, three and a half years ago we began to downsize in an effort to retire at 60 years old.
Our plans changed again early this summer. We lost a close friend to colon cancer. Understandably, the loss of a good friend hit us hard.
We had a nine hour drive home from the funeral. It was Sunday, June 17th, 2018 and we had plenty of time to think and talk. It’s cliche, but we were struck again by the feeling that there are no guarantees. Though it’s important to dream and plan for the future, you may never have the opportunity to realize those dreams. Life doesn’t always follow the plan.
Would it be possible to move up our timeline again? Originally, we planned to retire, like many people do, in our mid-sixties. Then, after my illness, we started to envisioning ways that we may be able to make it happen sooner. Now, we know we need to speed up the process even more. There is much to see and do, and there is no time like the present to start doing it.