Tuesday, September 11, 2012

It's Not A Death Sentence

If you want to be sad, no one in the world can make you happy. But if you make up your mind to be happy, no one and nothing on earth can take that happiness from you.
~Paramahansa Yogananda

One of the things you learn when you have cancer is that there are a lot of well-meaning people - beautiful people - who step up and offer their support.  More often than not, that's moral support.

We'll be here if you need us.

If there's anything you need, let us us know.

That sort of thing.

I'm not trying to trivialize.  What these people offer, oftentimes the only thing they that they can offer, is really important.  It's surprisingly comforting to know you have people "in your corner", so to speak.  You find out pretty quickly who actually gives a shit and who doesn't.  You may not ever have to call on them and in any event, there may be nothing they can do, but you do come to consider these people your friends.  They want to make you happy.

We'll be here.........

I had a couple rather touching examples at my office.

Two of the first people I told about the cancer was my boss, Wayne, and his administrative assistant Tammy.  A couple days later I got an email from the senior partners' administrative assistant, Darlene.

Barry and Carol are so sorry to hear about your cancer and wanted me to let you know that if there's any thing the partners can do to help, don't hesitate to ask.  Please keep us posted.

I thought that was very nice.  I was touched.  I was also moderately curious about how Barry and Carol found out about the cancer in the first place, but Ma Clover didn't raise ingrates.  Better to acknowledge the kindness and forget about the source.  So I wrote back saying how deeply I touched I was by the message and thank you very much.  A month before I would have been a little outraged at the intrusion, but today I was thankful for the understanding and compassion being demonstrated.  I was a little curious about how  they found out about it but didn't inquire. As it turned out it was Tammy who spilled the beans.  I couldn't be mad at her, either.  It all came down to people being compassionate.  You can't get pissed about that.

Sometime later I was walking past Wayne's office and he called me in to catch up on how things were going.  I talked about still feeling OK and what a pain all the doctors were and how I'd be better served in Iceland and all about all the crap I was going through.  Wayne took this in with a great deal of understanding.  His wife was in remission from Lymphoma at the time and he and his family had been through the wringer.  Without having actually had cancer himself, he knew exactly what I was going through.  As I was leaving his office he added this:

My wife and I were talking about your situation the other day and she asked me to pass along something.  She asked me to tell you that it's not a death sentence.

.....it's not a death sentence.

I'd already had my fill of people telling me how sorry they were about my having cancer, the looks of sheer horror, the pity.  Finally, someone, a fellow survivor, was giving me something I could work with.  It was like a breath of fresh air.  I had a new mantra.  I decided that this ...... thing ...... that afflicted me would never get the better of me.  I would live life, what life was left to me, happily and fully.  I had a disease, yes.  It might not be curable, yes.  Life in the future could and probably would be a real bitch at times, yes.  So what?

.....it's not a death sentence.

In our society, we're conditioned to think that a cancer diagnosis is the end of the road.  We think that a doctor telling us we have cancer is the same as saying us we're a dead man.  It's all over.  The end of the road.  The last hurrah.  Time to piss on the fire and call in the dogs.

But it's not.  It's none of that.  Yes, in a existential way of thinking, we're all dead.  None of us are getting out of here alive.  That much is certain.  However a doctor telling us we have cancer doesn't mean we're dead ....... yet.  For many of us, surviving cancer means the belief that there is a lot of life left to live and that we will go on living (not just staying alive) ........ until we die.  Maybe all cancer survivors feel way. 

Everyone should live that way.

.....it's not a death sentence.