Celebrating Your Life While Facing Tragedy, Death
April 29, 2014
Although my cancer is in remission, it never leaves my thoughts.
Every time I take a bath, I see multiple scars and incision points across my abdomen. When I get my socks in the morning, I see my alter ego, Janet (my wig), staring at me. When I look in the mirror, I see short, twisted hair and not the long, straight locks of hair I once received tons of compliments on.
It’s not much better when I leave the house.
I travel to Tulsa, Okla., every 90 days for a checkup. While there, I’m surrounded by cancer fighters who are on the same battlefield I was on. I also learn about another warrior who transitioned to another life.
These visits and other traumatic life events in my past sometimes make me feel as if I’m surrounded by death. They also make me ponder my own mortality.
My peritoneal mesothelioma went into remission in June 2012, giving me a new lease on life.
I had celebrated the accomplishment and thought I was finally free! As it turns out, I was free from chemotherapy sessions and nausea, but not free from thoughts of dying. The life expectancy for someone diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma is not encouraging.
Instead of enjoying my cancer-free life, a tragedy involving childhood friends hit close to home and shifted my focus toward a gloomier outlook.
One Wednesday morning, during the middle of carpool duty, I received an alarming call from my cousin. She said my friend had killed his wife and then himself. These two childhood friends left behind two children, ages 4 and 6.
The news sent chills up my spine. I felt every feeling imaginable: Shock, anger, sadness and empathy. My friends were both 37. I can’t imagine what led to this circumstance; however, it forced me to take stock of my own life.
Taking Stock of Life
Prior to this incident, I always wondered when my final day would come because of being diagnosed with mesothelioma. I thought of funeral arrangements, making provisions for my children and other plans. These thoughts of death haunted me every day. I felt guilty because here I was, blessed to be in remission, yet obsessing over my own death.
I attended the funeral services of my departed friends. It was sad and enlightening. As the obituary was read, I realized that I had not accomplished much in my life so far. There were hundreds of people in attendance. Would I have that sort of attendance at my funeral?
It was apparent to me that I have lots left to accomplish. None of my goals can be accomplished from the grave, nor can they be accomplished if I’m distracted by my own thoughts of death.
Each of us is born with an expiration date. Some of us are clued in on when our time is near, and others are not. My diagnosis was the reality check that I needed to remind myself that we all must make the transition to another life.
Instead of making funeral plans, I’ve decided to enjoy my life while I’m cancer-free and in remission.