Earlier this year I wasn’t sleeping well and was fairly high on the pain scale. The move and the new bed seems to have helped somewhat. I had a few days where I felt pretty well, and fantasized the speedy release of new cancer therapies that not only pulled us back from the brink of death but pushed us firmly in the direction of meaningful survival (not just long enough to decide who gets whatever assets one might have). By us I mean all the very much alive, late-stage lung cancer patients, maligned with the stigma of having a disease caused by smoking. We’re all punished rather unfairly by that stigma, so get over it already, all you self-righteous “you did it to yourself”-ers.
I’ve been alive for so long (almost 4-1/2 years) with cancer that I sometimes fall onto that slippery slope that some call hope and others delusion. I mustn’t entertain any fantasies of breakthroughs—I can hope and hold on as best as I can, but indulging the idea of living to old age is unrealistic and definitely unhelpful in terms of carrying out a plan as regards my passing.
So yes, I need to think, and talk, about death. I feel sort of wheezy and the toxicity of treatment is getting to me today, so it’s as good a time as any. I saw how quickly one could go from being the picture of health to becoming a spirit in the sky, and now I’m observing a harrowing decline by someone who has endured so much and by all accounts has a will of steel. I’m observing fear and uncertainty cross the mind of one who seems healthy but now finds things are not what they seem, even when and especially if you feel and look okay. Every day I contemplate the strangeness of appearing “normal” yet knowing that my insides are a steaming cauldron of battle. How to continue this fight, to continue a good quality of life, to decide how best to use this limted time. I already feel ridiculous spending so much time doing this, using technology. But I hope I leave a record that will help someone, at least my family, understand what I was going through. Almost none of them read this, but perhaps they will once I pass.
It’s such a bore, getting one’s affairs in order. But it must be done. I don’t have much so it’s no big deal. My biggest regret is being unable to care for my brother and parents because of my illness. Chances are, they’ll outlive me. But of course, deep down, my selfish regret is to not have the rest of my life with my husband.
By now I should have gone through all the different stages of dying (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance), and it’s been suggested that those who don’t work through some sort of process have difficulty dying in a dignified manner. “Dignified” sounds like when you finally accept things aren’t going to improve and you sort of will yourself to go, quietly.
There’s always the, “they died doing what they loved” thing. Should I die in a hot air balloon, or on the London Eye, or on a cruise through the Norwegian fjords then? Or should I die while making peach cardamom ice cream or skanking furiously to an 80’s ska band? Do I care what dignified means? Is anyone ever really ready? What do people think about on their death bed?
Not really morbid thoughts, but it’s hot out today—a beautiful day, and I want to remember some of what I did this weekend. I thought about death. Now I can set it aside and move on to face the fact that I should’ve flown back east to see Naomi this week, regardless of logistics. At this stage, one must follow their heart if the effort can be made.
I’m sad and hoping Boehringer Ingelheim releases the results of their Lux-Lung 1 study soon. I’m hoping drug development suddenly gets a shot of adrenaline and makes like the dot com boom overnight. I suppose it’s a fantasy, but it’s all we’ve got.
(I tried to find a pictorial depiction of “heaven” but couldn’t find one. I don’t know if I’m going to such a place anyway, but I hope the waters are warm and clear so my spirit can swim freely to the depths of the collective unconscious.)