A year ago today, I learned from my Chicago doctor that I had stage 4 pancreatic cancer. As Patti and I were sitting in an examining room, the last question I asked him before we left his office was: ‘Is this fatal?”

He got a blank look,  like maybe I just was not comprehending what he was telling me. Then, he said, “Yes.”

In my BC (before cancer) life, I then did what I would always do. I went back to work. The diagnosis had not settled in. There are times even today when I wonder whether the implications of that conversation a year ago have sunk in today.

Then, I think about it a bit more and realize that, yes, it has sunk in, and, yes, I would like to think that I am a different person today than the one that sat in Dr. MacCreary’s office a year ago today.

On that day a year ago, I went back to work. Today, I no longer work and am retired. I don’t have the work stressors that I had a year ago.

A year ago, Patti and I were adjusting to the “empty nest” on the 48th floor of a downtown Chicago apartment with gorgeous views of Lake Michigan, the Hancock Tower, the Navy Pier and downtown Chicago. It was beautiful. Today, we live in a small ranchhouse on the ground with excellent views of the rear ends of horses.

A year ago, my personal behavior was pretty staid — somewhat introverted guy who would rarely talk to the next passenger on the airplane. Today, I have nothing to hide or to pretend to be. I talk with anyone on a plane. And, when I was recently visiting MDAnderson for a followup cancer visit, I sat in a waiting room for my next appointment. While sitting there, I noticed that a woman across the room from me had an iPad just like mine. I got up, walked over to her and said, “I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours.” Patti was aghast, but I WAS talking about the iPad, thankyouverymuch!

A year ago, I took my family for granted. Family things worked around my work schedule. Today, family has new meaning for me. I just got back from Austin, where Patti and I helped our daughter move into a new apartment. While the stress of moving may not have been so much fun for Casey, it was just great being around her, even if we were working.

A year ago, it took me forever to read a book because I edited and rewrote sections of books from authors. Today, I go through a book for pleasure. Plus, after all these years of editing other people’s’ work, I have decided to write my own. I am well under way into writing a novel that has been moving around inside my brain for the last two decades. It’s finally coming out on paper and I’m loving every complete minute of it.

A year ago, I flossed a lot. Today, not as much as I should.

A year ago, my father-in-law, Andy, and I were diagnosed with cancer on the same day. Andy is 85 and has esophageal cancer, for which he has undergone radiation and chemotherapy. The chemo nearly killed him, but he’s a resilient and tenacious New Englander who looks like Burgess Meredith in “Rocky.” He’s bouncing back and I am so proud of every step he takes. So far, I haven’t had any radiation or chemo. I continue with the homeopathic journey, which, for me, has worked, Lord willing.

A year ago, a doctor in Chicago told me that if I didn’t start taking his chemo immediately, I wouldn’t be with my family past Christmas. Well, we had a great Christmas, thankyouverymuch. Also, I managed to celebrate two of my children’s birthdays, Patti’s birthday, our anniversary and my birthday this year, so far. Now, every day I get to spend with them is a celebration. Every moment is filled with laughter. We know the stakes.

A year ago, neither Patti nor I would make many plans beyond a week or two. Today, I signed up for a year’s membership in a fitness club to pay more attention to my health. Patti and I are doing this together because we both need to take better care of ourselves.

A year ago, it appeared the future had a pretty wide and far-reaching horizon. While I was working, we talked of retiring on a golf course somewhere. We talked of traveling to Venice.  We talked of vacations on the Outer Banks. Today, I believe the future still has a pretty wide and far-reaching horizon. I just believe that today I don’t need the house on the golf course. If we get to Venice, great. If not, Patti and I can see some pretty remarkable sunsets and beauty right out our window here in Texas. As for vacations, every day I get to spend with Patti is an endless summer of vacations. I don’t need a special destination except to know that we are waking up together, facing each day in whatever it brings, smiling all along the way, and realizing that tomorrow just holds more in store of what we celebrated today.

Yep, it’s a “different” anniversary, and I just hope to have many, many more.