by Carolyn Langlie-Lesnik | Feb 14, 2019 | Uncategorized |
Being a nurse and working for several years in an ICU, I saw many people die. Before cancer, I thought I’d want to know beforehand that I was going to die, I’d want to get my life in order. I worried about dying suddenly and someone coming across my many years worth of handwritten journals. They were mine, and I didn’t want anyone else to ever read them. Writing had just always been my way to cope with my struggles. I think I thought that knowing ahead of time would give me some sense of control (I am kind of a control freak). I could say goodbye to everyone. So, I guess I wanted to die slowly, predictably?
Having cancer changed that for me. Initially I was not expected to live, I was told I was terminally ill. Even after treatment I knew my cancer had a high recurrence rate and that I could still die slowly of cancer. Contemplating dying slowly was contemplating all you would lose. Saying goodbye to and abandoning your husband and children. Letting go of all of the plans you had for the future….going back to school, a job you always wanted, travels you had planned, retiring some day. I spent a long time contemplating and grieving for all of the things I stood to lose, that could be taken away from me. Saying goodbye to so many things.
My father died some years after I finished treatment. He was in his recliner watching TV one night, and yawned. My mom asked him if he was ready to go to bed. He said in a little bit. Then his heart stopped. One minute he was alive, the next dead. He didn’t suffer any pain, wasn’t ill, hadn’t had months and months of treatment for an illness. He didn’t know he would be leaving that night, so didn’t have to contemplate his losses. I wanted a death like that.
I did some research, though. Unfortunately, 90% of us will die of chronic disease, only 10% of us die suddenly. Before my cytoreduction surgery, I’d already spent time contemplating losses and contemplated possibly putting my family through a long period of time where they would watch me suffer before I died. Before my surgery, I prayed that if I was going to die of this cancer, that I just die in surgery and get it over with. I burned all of my journals before my surgery.
But I lived. In May I will be an 18 year survivor. Now though, I hope to be in that 10% that doesn’t contemplate their death, doesn’t expect it. I want to die in my sleep!
by Carolyn Langlie-Lesnik | Feb 7, 2019 | Uncategorized |
Cancer is in some ways different from other diseases. Nowadays no one will call us “cured”; even after 5 years cancer free, we are just long-term survivors. So we never feel cancer is really “gone”. I have survived long enough now that I don’t worry about my cancer recurring (17 years NED), but I probably still occasionally worried about it recurring at 10 years. Our perspectives as cancer survivors may be different from those with other diseases, even chronic ones. It is always in the background of our lives.
I’ve tried to come to terms with a fear of dying, especially when I was younger. I think I am fortunate to be a nurse. I am very aware life is not fair. I’ve worked in a lot of ICUs and seen many people die before their time. A headache was really an aneurysm that ruptured and caused death, a child died trying to retrieve a toy from a 5 gallon bucket. I’ve seen many people with chronic diseases that have left patients with no quality of life. Physically, once I got past the cancer surgery and all of the chemo, I have physically had a great quality of life. I was in New York City and walked past the Twin Towers on September 6th, and just a few days later 3000 people who were healthy and working lost their lives. When I fear dying I try to remember these things.
Life is short and we are all here just here on a journey. I believe in a soul and am Christian, so believe in an afterlife in Heaven. I’ve read many books on heaven and near death experiences that have given me confidence in my beliefs. I’d be happy to share m book list!
I read a quote the other day I loved, “I am not a body, I have a body. I am a soul.”