my cancer

We’re all gonna die…

In 2010 I bought one of those five year diaries. It’s pretty neat. Every calendar day there is a question or topic and there are spaces for

five years of answers. I started the book on New Year’s Day 2011, but my answers were sporadic at best. Journals filled with cheery questions aren’t always useful for a melancholic, but I’ve started writing in it in earnest this year. Saturday’s question asked “Where is your road leading?”

The question gave me pause. Where is my road leading? I suppose it’s going to the cemetery, but I added that I hoped the drive was pretty. I told a friend about this and her answer was “it’s like that for everyone. I could be hit by a bus at any time.” Rather than going into the minuscule statistical likelihood that she would be hit by a bus while sitting my office on the third floor of the art building, I finally confronted her about my situation. My friend loves me and doesn’t want me to die, so much so that she invalidates anything I do to try to comes to terms with my shitty prognosis. She was thrilled that I’m off chemo and suggested that the cancer might go away on its own. She insisted that my MBC doesn’t necessarily have to be fatal. That I thought about death too much. AND that everybody knows they will die and we all feel the same way about it. It was at this point that I called bullshit.

Knowing that you will eventually die because you are mortal is exceedingly different that knowing that you are sick with something that will kill you in the near future. We all might get hit by a bus, but with cancer we know the number of the bus and a window of time when it will kill us. To think otherwise is to invalidate the existential crisis terminal patients face in having to come to terms with ourselves as being in the world and soon the world continuing without us. Heidegger wrote of the distractions we give ourselves so we don’t have to face the terror of being in the world particularly by avoiding boredom or empty time that could be used to think.

I love my friend dearly and I think she finally understood that there is a different between the abstract concept of mortality and terminal illness. But it’s everywhere, both my psychiatrists have said the “we’re all gonna die” with the bus analogy and it hurts. It hurts because I’m trying to find a way to come to terms with my dying so I can enjoy the time I have that is still relatively healthy and strong. It’s harder to do when you are an atheist.

But I’m not going to die tomorrow, I have to teach my Asian art class.


9 thoughts on “We’re all gonna die…

  1. My father far outlived his prognosis mainly by doing what you’re talking about – live your life, make the most of each day and just keep going. I am nowhere near where you are but I, too, get sick of the “oh, you’ll get through it and be fine” bullshit. While your time may be limited, I hope that you find yourself with extra days and months and (shhhh) years where you’ll be surprised where you’ll find yourself. Even if it’s a single day longer than you expected.

    • I try not to think of the stats and just keep going but at the same time feel that I need to work toward a place of peace with this.

  2. I hate knowing that your “days are numbered” in a way that some doctor can count or make some hypothesis about. It totally and completely sucks ass.

    And the bit about being “hit by a bus” — I say that a lot only because sometimes I see too many people living like their life has no expiration date. I sometimes forget about my own expiration date — too wrapped up in this work crisis or this financial hole or whatever.

    I will never fully comprehend what you are going through (unless I get the same diagnosis and as much as I want to be truly empathetic can we not wish for that?) I also suffer from something that could, at any moment, snuff out my light– my faulty, disagreeable lungs. While its not likely, I get the occasional scare that makes me think “Oh, yeah, my days really are numbered.”

    I hope October is a joy of pumpkins and fall leaves and warm stews and none of that horrible pepto-bismal pink. xoxo

    • I love the idea of encouraging people to do something with or enjoy their lives while they have it. That’s what I’m trying to do. I used to totally get wrapped up in finances, etc, worrying about stuff that doesn’t really matter. And, NO, I don’t need you empathize that much!

      We are totally doing the pumpkin, Halloween stuff! No pink at all.

      • Right after I typed this comment I walked past a table tent in the hallway here with the pink ribbon on it. They’re everywhere!!!! I think I’ll remove it and put a pumpkin or gourd there instead.

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