Those of us with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer are actively dying. Yet, death is not immediate. The median life expectancy is 2-3 years and I am meeting and hearing of more and more “outliers,” those women who have lived far beyond the median and beyond. Until we know why there are outliers, the newly diagnosed are stuck with the average statistics.
When I learned that I was metastatic, my then radiation oncologist awkwardly gave me a few examples of women who had lived around ten (10) years after being diagnosed. I think she was trying to give me some hope; however, I had just learned that I wouldn’t be celebrating at the end of treatment since treatment would never end and it felt hollow.
At that point, when I was still grappling with the new reality of living with a terminal diagnosis, my version of living life like I was dying was to radically change my life. To drop the many balls I was juggling and simplify everything so that I could spend whatever time I had left with the boys.
Now that real life has intruded a bit, I find that there is a significant difference between my medical treatment and all that entails and the regular stuff that I have to carry. Laundry, homework, etc., the normal chaos of life with kids and a husband and extended family commitments.
So, how does one live like one is dying?
I’m still figuring that out, but I can definitely say for sure that I don’t wait to do the things I want to do, the things that I enjoy. Others plan trips, go see all the places they’ve always wanted to see. Others make bucket lists of all the experiences they want to have.
All of that feels odd to me.
It feels like counting down to ones last days.
I get that we’re all doing that to a certain extent, especially those of us have already been told that our expected life expectancy will be much much shorter. The reminder of counting down a list is just too much for me. Way too much.
And so, my version of living life while I’m dying is to focus on the present, not put off that which gives me joy, and to keep my cancer life away from my boys. They will have to deal with the reality at some point, but #NotToday.
A long time ago, I stopped making New Years resolutions. It always felt a little odd to me and I just didn’t find myself adhering to any of them anyway, outside of the first week of January. A few years ago, I joined an amazing executive women’s group called Arete and the founder, Dianne Ogle, introduced me to picking a word each year. I’ve been picking a word each year since then and even though I can’t participate as much with the dear women of Arete, it helps me feel close to them.
So, as I live while dying, I will be looking for the sacred in every day life.
What do you hold as sacred in your life?