Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Obsessing About Death

I'm feeling a little out of sorts tonight. Ever since I learned of my ex-husband's passing, I've been contemplating death a lot. (I'm pretty obsessed with it anyway and Paul's death certainly didn't lessen that obsession!) So I wonder, why do some terminally ill patients furiously fight to live even in the face of poor survival odds, trading whatever quality of time they may have left for painful or even risky treatments that have a high probability of failure? And why do others view death as a very gentle and normal life process? I suppose the answers are as numerous as the individual patients themselves. Researchers say that a person’s age, religious belief and life experiences all contribute to how well that patient copes with a terminal diagnosis and can even determine the will to survive. Knowing how freaked out people get when I talk or write about death, I recognize that we live in a culture where nobody talks about dying, so patients have a sense that the reason nurses and doctors won’t talk about it is that dying must be too horrible to even think about. Am I determined to try to live no matter how terrible my suffering may become? Abso-fu**ing-lutely! I will not go quietly into that goodnight!!! It is about surviving.

Leaving my family and friends with positive memories of how I conducted my battle against breast cancer is a big concern. At times during my treatment, I was in pain and fairly sure I was dying. All my life I’ve tried to protect my family from harm. I found it more painful for me to watch them watch me than the actual pain I felt from treatment. Should I lose this battle, I want them to remember me as a fighter, not a quitter. That is exactly why roller derby entered my life. I wasn't ready to give up and I had to find a way to make myself stronger. Having cancer has given me courage and freedom to speak my mind; I don’t mince words. If I feel something, I say it because I might not get a second chance to say what I need to say. If I die tomorrow, I hope I’m not leaving anything unsaid or undone.

Last week I wrote "I hope to be a whole person, one who loves, accepts, serves, rejoices and opens up to others honestly and without hesitation. Then I might be someone worth knowing. That will be a life well-lived. That's really all I want." Despite my cancer, I consider myself lucky. I think I've lived a good life—the best I know how. But I am not ready for that final journey. And as the 2012 roller derby season is set to begin, I will remain strong and continue to beat cancer!

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