Archive for August, 2016

posted by Amy on Aug 22

I’ve traveled a bit this summer, and I’ve seen some people I don’t often see. They usually tell me I look great, and ask me how I’m doing. I usually say, “I’m fine. I still have cancer.” That usually draws a quizzical look, or a story about someone who “beat cancer.”

My cancer had already reached the incurable, final stage when it was diagnosed. It is “manageable” and “treatable,” but not curable. But here I am in the sixth year since that happened, and I really am fine.

When I was first being treated for cancer it struck me as odd that the health care providers always asked, “How are you?” I’d think, “How do you think I am? I have cancer and there’s virtually no chance it won’t end up killing me.” But, over time, I settled into the routine and learned to work around that little bump in the road. For me it has been relatively easy. I don’t have a lot of impairment from either the cancer or the treatments. I know I’m lucky.

But I’m not just lucky that living with terminal cancer is going so well for me right now. I’m lucky I didn’t die before I lived long enough to get cancer. I could have succumbed to any number of other threats by now: car wrecks, drowning, lightening strike, meningitis, complications of childbirth, some less manageable cancer. . . . . Human bodies are fragile, vulnerable, mortal. I am going to die. So are you.

Say you don’t know for sure you have a terminal illness. Someone asks how you are and you usually say, “fine.” That may not actually be true, but the questioner kind of expects you to say that, and would be very surprised if you said “I’m gonna die!” In truth, unless you do know you have a terminal illness, you probably don’t think a lot about your fragility or mortality, and neither does the person who said, “How are you?” When someone who hasn’t seen me in awhile asks it, I’m pretty sure they assume that since I am still alive, have hair, and look healthy, I must not have cancer anymore. I don’t want them to make that assumption, so I give my standard answer. But since every single one of us is going to die someday from something, we could all be answering, “I’m fine. I’m happy. I’m glad to be alive. I’m going to die.”

More and more, I see value in my showing up, doing normal stuff, starting projects that take time and effort, continually trying to be a better human being, AND doing my best to make sure no one is shocked when they find out I died. Just shoot me if you ever hear me say cancer was a blessing. I like to think I’d have figured this stuff out just from getting older, losing loved ones, and gaining wisdom. But I do think having death as a constant companion has made me much less afraid to live.

You don’t need to get cancer to figure it out. Don’t be afraid to live. This is not a dress rehearsal. Be honest. Be authentic. Be brave. Be good. Be loving. And if there’s anything you’ve been wanting to do (and it doesn’t break any of the 10 Commandments) then just do it.

Theme by Eric for Amy, who owns the copyright for this site, and has reserved all rights.