5 Years or 50 Years –Whichever Comes First

I remember when I was taking an implant cancer treatment at the Cross Cancer Clinic. Two of us were to be connected to a massive machine (client A in one room, a massive machine next room, and client B (me, in the other).

We would have 54 hours of radiation from it. And we were invited to connect with each other before going into our session. I liked that – it humanized the process.

This lovely woman, maybe a bit older than me (I was in my late 30’s) during the course of our conversation, asked me, “How are you going to get thru the next 5 Years?”

“5 Years?

Yes, until we get remission…


Well (I’m an actress, I have never been much for 5-year goals, I tend to look at short-term and long-term goals), I honoured the question to mean how will I traverse the unknown…and it’s gonna be a WHILE…I was silent for some time, contemplating possibilities, the unknown…

And then I said “5 years is too big for me. I’m gonna take it 5 minutes at a time and then I’ll play with it as it comes.”

During my treatment, (I did the 54-hour stint, 2 times, – I had cervical cancer so I was on absolute bedrest, with an implant inserted into my vagina, a catheter, and such) at the 48-hour point my body ached all over, and at one point, I thought my head is gonna pop right off, I don’t know how I can manage this for 6 more HOURS!

I thought of that woman’s question, and my initial response, and I thought well, I am gonna experiment here. I broke it down to 5 seconds, watched the clock on the wall and I thought I am gonna breathe in and out for 5 seconds and see if my head is gonna actually pop off!?!

I stayed intact, so I did it again, working up to 5-minute cycles, repeated them, and started to send out love and compassion to all who might be suffering in any way… An energy came, colorless, formless, took the pain away and such power flowed through me. For the next 6 hours, non-stop…Hmmmm…

Wow, just when everything was stripped away that defined me, actress, mother, volunteer, wife, and my health, I never imagined that such power was just waiting for me to get out of the way.

I repeated the process during the second 54-hour stint. Same 48-hour hurdle, same power. And so I thought, please let me remember this, in a gentle way, and integrate this teaching into my life however long I live.

This goal came to my heart: may I live my life as if I have 5 minutes or 50 years… whichever comes first.

And then I thought so what could this truly mean as an action plan I could use anywhere, anytime…

3 guiding principles came to mind:

1. If I have 2 loaves of bread – sell one and buy a flower.

  1. Do not use an ax to remove a fly from your friend’s forehead…!
  2. A person stands on a hillside with their mouth open for a long time, before a roast duck flies in.

A few explorations of these guiding principles:

  • If I have my practical needs met, (sell one loaf of bread and bring in whatever gives my heart joy – color, lightness, joy, playing, drawing laughing with loved ones…5-minute joy break for example)
  • If I only have 5 minutes, I am darned if I am going to spend it in anger/negativity with my loved ones. I took up juggling instead with stress balls that I made out of rice and balloons which I could splat on the floor when I felt like it
  • Roast Duck means – no matter how long I have, 5 minutes or 50 years, I am an influential driving force in my own being. Let’s take on life and see what kinda love and joy I can bring on. (I am now over 30 years past that first encounter with cancer)

I have been blessed with the delightful understanding that the amount of time just doesn’t matter. Making an art of life does.


Susan Sneath
Susan Sneath
I'm a Story-Architect, Whole-Life Coach, and Performer who has spent over 20 years helping people bring their visions and stories to life. In all of my work, I fuse personal development theory, acting techniques, and a sprinkle of mindfulness. I love meeting people where they're at and helping to create a safe space to play with what life's thrown them. I collaborate with: Leaders of all shapes, ages, and sizes; creatives – artists, and those who make an ‘art of life’. Folks who watch things happen, folks who make things happen, folks who wonder what happened? The most important thing – Your faculty of perception changes everything. Be patient with the process. What truth do you need to hear, to understand, to be willing to change? My lived philosophy: Listen, do, and then use what you know in as many ways as you can imagine. It’s over six months now since I moved from the boardroom to the production studio, where I co-host a TV Talk Show “The Change Zone” with my friend Gail McDonald. We help people “On Purpose!” bring stories of their Leadership Presence and Visions to Life/Community. Spotify, Apple, and iHeart Radio, Building the community that embodies change, one conversation, one story at a time. Everyone is welcome in The Change Zone.

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  1. Hello Susan,

    What an experience you describe and the creative way you endured treatment. Not easy, time can move slowly; the number of hours rather scary, but you got through it. I can empathize to a degree, although your treatment makes my experience more like coffee and cookies. I was diagnosed with prostate cancer about three or so years ago. Treatment: hormone injections (with accompanying hot flushes) and a five days per week radio therapy; each session about a minute or two. Result fully cured, than God.

    Thank you for sharing your experience. You were most brave. And brave to describe your treatment and how you dealt with time element.