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!