Monday, September 14, 2015

Quality versus quantity

Quality and quantity are two concepts we face almost daily in our lives. We find ourselves making decisions based on one or the other.

For some, quantity is key, but some prefer quality. The reasons we choose one or the other are many. And sometimes these choices are not easy.

Just after Jilda and I were married in 1974, we spent our honeymoon in Panama City, Florida. The Quinns, an older couple, owned Quinn’s Cottages on Laguna Beach. The cottages weren’t air conditioned, but they were cozy and we could afford the rent for a week on our pauper’s pay.

On the second day we were there, the Quinns invited us to lunch, their treat. We agreed and at noon, we wheeled into the parking lot at Duff’s. It was one of those all-you-can-eat cafeterias.

I ate pork chops, catfish, shrimp, hush puppies, cake, pudding and soft ice cream over a brownie. You could almost hear the cholesterol clogging my veins.

I was so full when we left I needed a wheelbarrow to get to the car. Quantity was the objective that day, so Duff’s was a good choice.

But quantity versus quality isn’t always as “cut and dry.” Sometimes the choices require a tradeoff. Our friend Mary is a good example.

She discovered in 2003 that she had Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This diagnosis kicked off years of chemotherapy, bone marrow transplants and experimental drug therapies. Thankfully, treatment added years to her life.

As it turns out, cancer kept invading her body. Each time it did, she weighed treatment outcomes, and even though she knew the chemo would make her life miserable she decided that feeling miserable for a year was worthwhile if it could add years to her life. She opted for quantity instead of quality.

During the time she underwent treatments, she was a hostage in her home. Even a small infection that for most of us would be quickly cured with steroids and antibiotics could have been fatal for her. Her friends understood her struggle, and we kept her in our thoughts and prayers.

When Mary and Bryan drove into our yard for the fish fry last year, we were delighted. She was as happy as I’d seen her in years.

About 30 friends and family members had gathered to enjoy a beautiful spring day. We ate fried fish and hush puppies. Afterwards, we sat around in the shade of the oak and pine in our backyard and enjoyed each other’s company. It was a quality day.

As the shadows grew longer in the evening, people began saying their goodbyes. Mary had gone to the bathroom before the drive back to Birmingham and that’s when Bryan told us that Mary’s cancer was back.

After a lot of soul-searching, Mary made the decision along with Bryan to forego treatment. Doctors told her that without treatment she could expect to live about a year. She decided that she’d come to a point in her life where quality was more important than quantity.

Mary and Bryan made the most of the last months of her life, and she died in her sleep at home instead of in a hospital tethered to tubes and beeping machines.

We all face choices as we move through life. Some of the choices are no-brainers, but some of them are much more difficult.


  1. This is so very sad. It is something I hear often and we think we know which way we will go but I don't think we truly know until faced with that decision. It sounds like she chose wisely in both cases because she was here on this Earth much longer and people were able to appreciate her strength, beauty and love of life.

  2. Anonymous9:39 PM

    I am so sorry that you lost your friend!!

  3. I hope it's Mary's smiles that punctuate your memories. What moxie!

  4. Interesting questions, such a difficult decision.

    Sorry for your loss.

  5. I am sorry about the loss of your friend.
    I pray that the fond memories that you all shared together will comfort you in this difficult time.

  6. A very, very difficult decision to have to make!!

    Beautiful autumn leaves.

    Ms Soup

  7. Quality time would be my choice too. Everyone has different choices to make and we can only hope they were the right ones. That would have been a hard one for sure.

  8. Oh yes. This is a question many folk face. I have learned it is their decision. Never will I suggest the answer. I did in one case earlier in my life. The person make the decision themselves, but I had 'voiced' my opinion. It was WRONG and it was a tough lesson to learn. In 'life' decisions, those are personal.
    This is a very good and timely entry. Very bitter sweet, but very well stated.
    As always, it seems you have the right words.

    This entry will stick in our minds for awhile. My admiration to folks who make the decisions and gently live with them.

    And oh yeah, we do have cute wives, we B lucky dogs.

  9. PS: I noticed again I need a proof reader. But I came back to say the picture is beautiful you chose for today. A good reminder of my life's season.

  10. Very sad. I'm glad Mary got to pass on her own terms, in her own way.

  11. I'm sorry for the loss of your friend. I see this every day in my work with who choose to get treatment and come in for the port insertion that will deliver that treatment. I often hear others say...and have said it myself on occasion...that they wouldn't do chemo. My Father-in-law said that all the time. Then he got cancer and struggled with that decision. He even asked what we would do. I told him he had to make that decision and whatever he chose we'd go with it. I like to say "Never say never"...and hopefully I won't have to make that hard decision. It's just as you say...quality over quantity and it's so personal. I'm glad she had a few more years with loved ones and was able to have dignity and grace at the end. Your photo is perfect for this post. The beautiful leaves in the Autumn..the final gift before the Winter..take care Rick.

  12. The last time I talked to my recently deceased sister-in-law she sounded so tired. She had been fighting cancer for several years and it just kept invading her body. She told me that she was prepared to go. But she still hoped for another year or two. She was glad she had lived for as long as she did and a few good things happened for her during that time. Perhaps the quantity was what she needed. It gave her the opportunity to experience the bits of quality.

  13. Choices are never easy, we always have to do what is best for us... I hope your friend Mary enjoyed that last year of her life... because you are right Rick, sometimes quality out weighs quantity... It all depends on what we are looking for....

  14. Those choices are never easy. I've had to make that choice and there's always a cost factor to go with such decision. I'm still alive now while others in my condition are no longer here. So sorry about the passing of your dear friend Mary.



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