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Life Disrupted

Gallbladder Cancer Can SHRED Your Peace of Mind but, with patience, bolster your hope

You undoubtedly noticed that my blogs have been MIA in recent months, and there’s a very good reason for that. Earning money in the stock market — or from any other source for that matter — has ceased to become a daily routine, a priority. In fact, fattening my wallet has become almost the last thing on my mind.

Why the big change? Simple. A diagnosis of gallbladder cancer has invaded my life. And as an unwanted consequence, it’s sucked up an excessive amount of my mental bandwidth with a litany of planning, thinking, and worrying about myriad “what ifs.”

Rather than bore you with a compendium of my ills, let me report that my travail started with a brief bout of heartburn, followed by enduring fits of nausea so bad I barely ate any food for several weeks, and ended with surgery to skirt a bowel obstruction and a hands-on diagnosis of gallbladder cancer too obtrusive to allow curative removal. Whew!

Now, where to from here? Well, that’s the problem. The future is unsure. I’ve spent the whole of November-December in chemo treatments. Soon, I’ll get another full-chest scan to determine the effectiveness of that regimen. But after that the picture is pretty dicey.  I hope for the best, something like a temporary remission, but I refuse to speculate too widely since gallbladder cancer is a pretty nasty model of this dreaded disease.

Even so, when those weekly chemo treatments don’t reduce me to a cadaverous weakling, I’m still profitably trading. I guess the chase of a good stock is just too irresistible. Better still, trading focuses my mind on something reasonably useful.

And yes, I still own a few preferred stocks. But before buying more I am waiting for QE (this month or next) to provide the opportunity. And of course, my medical prognosis weighs on that decision as well.

See what I mean? That’s the big interruption: Much of what I plan, think, and do seems to be sieved through that mortal filter. There’s just no denying that my life has been seriously interrupted, even though I’m the guy who, no fewer than a half-dozen times in this blog, have reprinted Robert Hastings’ poetic advice in The Station to stop and smell the roses:  Life is  but a vapor. “You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (John 4:14).

I guess I can live with that (no pun intended). But I hate the fact that my peace of mind that been fragmented. That’s a crucial loss from anyone’s psychological well-being. It’s like Alfie said. (Alfie being Michael Caine, the English bloke whose uncaring womanizing in the movie of the same name eventually leaves him alone.

“What have I got? Really? Some money in my pocket. Some nice threads, fancy car at my disposal, and I’m single. Yeah… unattached, free as a bird… I don’t depend on nobody. Nobody depends on me. My life’s my own. But I don’t have peace of mind. And if you don’t have that, you’ve got nothing.”

While my life has been nothing like Alfie’s, we share that loss of peace of mind.  Cancer took mine away, but I’m working on getting it back. And another reading of Dr. Hastings” seminal advice can’t hurt and only help bolster my hope for your future and mind.

The Station  — By Robert J. Hastings 

Tucked away in our subconscious is an idyllic vision. We see ourselves on a long trip that spans the continent. We are traveling by train. Out the windows we drink in the passing scene of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at a crossing, of cattle on a distant hillside, of smoke pouring from a power plant, of row upon row of corn and wheat, of flatlands and valleys, of mountains and rolling hillsides, of city skylines and village halls.

But uppermost in our minds is the final destination. On a certain day at a certain hour we will pull into the station. Bands will be playing and flags waving. Once we get there so many wonderful dreams will come true and the pieces of our lives will fit together like a completed jigsaw puzzle. How restlessly we pace the aisles, damning the minutes for loitering – waiting, waiting, waiting for the station.

“When we reach the station, that will be it!” we cry. “When I’m 18.” “When I buy a new 450SL Mercedes Benz!” “When I put the last kid through college.” “When I have paid off the mortgage!”  “When I get a promotion.” “When I reach the age of retirement, I shall live happily ever after!”

Sooner or later we must realize there is no station, no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly outdistances us.

“Relish the moment” is a good motto, especially when coupled with Psalm 118:24: “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” It isn’t the burdens of today that drive men mad. It is the regrets over yesterday and the fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are twin thieves who rob us of today.

So, stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, climb more mountains, eat more ice cream, go barefoot more often, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more, cry less. Life must be lived as we go along. The station will come soon enough.

These are wise words. Stop and smell the roses. The station, your end, comes soon enough.

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