When you suddenly stare the possibility of cancer squarely in the face, it changes you. No big surprise, everybody dies, but it may be you this time.
Everything looks different. Those commercials for losing weight or cures for what seem like silly, non-threatening illnesses are just plain ridiculous. The worries of just about anybody else in the world seem so trivial. The subjects others write about seem trite and silly.
I pride myself in being realistic about my own death. I know none of us get out of this alive, and I have tried to get more comfortable with that fact. But when it becomes more real. When you look down at your body and seriously think about from dust to dust. When you stare over the abyss of nothingness, that’s enough to make just about anyone uncomfortable.
“What things would I give away? Would I want an obituary in the newspaper? How would my husband and dog handle it? (I’m pretty sure my cat would barely notice…) Should I tell friends and family now or wait? Who should I tell? People from my past? Who even cares?
Yes, I have had a couple close calls with death in my 61 years, but at the time I was either unconscious (bike accident, traumatic brain injury) or had absolutely no control over the situation (plane malfunction). In the plane over Tokyo Bay, my life did flash before me, but I was only 20. I didn’t have a lot to flash. I remember looking around myself and thinking, “Gee, I’m going to die with all these people I don’t even know.”
In the week or so after my cat scan and before I heard my lung nodules are not too scary, my life also flashed before me, but in slow motion. My conclusion is that I have led a difficult life, partially because of the choices I have made. I chose not to marry and have kids. I’ve spent most of my life on my own terms. It took a midlife crisis (at 49) for me to decide to try something different, trusting others.
All of the best experiences in my life have flown from that change, marriage to a loyal, loving partner, more security than I’ve ever known, a great puppy and a new rural lifestyle in an amazing solar home. I want more of these experiences before I die..
My hat is off to all cancer survivors more so than ever before. To my Mom and Jan and all of you who have stared a bad diagnosis, surgery, and death in the face and survived the trauma of it all. This is something you never forget. This is life.