You may or may not know I am an 11-year breast cancer survivor. Although the cancer is gone from my body, it still is a part of who I am, my history – physical, spiritual and emotional.
Let’s set the scene, shall we?
For over a decade, you have been battling cancer. While it is metastatic, you have had some periods of months where your health has been stable – not great and with discomforts and issues; however, overall the majority of your time has seen you very, very ill.
We’re not talking “ill” as in the flu, but violent systemic effects from treatment and the disease itself. At one point you opted out of conventional treatment for the purely holistic approach. Sadly, this has not worked, so you are now once again undergoing traditional treatment, albeit ultimately too late in the game. The cancer and the treatment are manifesting in symptoms such as ascites, bowel obstructions, joint pain and swelling, vomiting, extreme swings in metabolic chemistries and all sorts of ugly unpleasantries – and the foreseeable future doesn’t look any better.
You will not be cured. What you are now experiencing – these unpleasant symptoms, this tortuous existence – this is it. Due to your physical condition, you cannot leave your home except to attend medical appointments.
Your savings and virtually every asset you had were invested in alternative treatments. You are now on the brink of being a welfare candidate, leaving you and your spouse with no retirement savings, no savings period. You are struggling financially, although you do have health insurance.
You are in your mid to late 50s in age.
What would you do? Or, rather, what do you think you would do? No one can say definitively their course of action, thoughts or feelings until one experiences it firsthand.
As a survivor, I have probably thought more about Death and issues such as this more than many people.
The last couple of days, I seem to keep asking myself questions I might ponder if I were in such a situation. “Why keep on? Why not just try to find some peace and let go? Why keep torturing myself and those around me who care for me?”
I like to think that I would say, “Enough is enough.” and bow out as gracefully as possible, releasing myself and my loved ones from torment. I don’t see that as “giving up” or letting the disease “win.” I see it as making the most of the time I would have left, being able to glean some enjoyment of people and experiences and making my peace with people, Spirit and myself.
Of course, that is one decision for which there is no reversal. When you turn out the lights, they’re out.
At least in this world.
I have seen both attitudes – those who struggle to continue until the inevitable outcome and those who opt for packing their remaining time chock-full of what I call Life – loved ones, experiences (that last camping trip, for instance), getting their structural, financial and spiritual houses in order, and so on.
My Mom discontinued treatment and transitioned peacefully in her sleep. Cousin Karen opted out and left this world literally with a smile on her face.
Again I mention that there is no cure, and what you are experiencing is the way it is going to be until the end. It ain’t pretty and it ain’t gonna get better.
My personal belief is that the latter of the two paths embraces the pure spirit of the Warrior. I like to think that is more of leaving on one’s own terms, not letting the disease “win” if you will, not letting it beat one down until there is literally nothing left.
Of course, both paths are choices, neither one being right or wrong.
In case you’re wondering, this is conjecture – it is not me. I’m fine as frog’s hair, actually. In my early 50s, I feel more like I’m in my 20s. Better, actually. Well, most days!
It’s just on my mind.
What do you like to think you would do?