5/27/09

Now Is Better Than Later

"They could find a cure in the next couple years, so you shouldn't give up."

Nobody's talking about 'giving up', whatever that would mean... I mean, I'm not laying down in the middle of the street and refusing to get up, and I'm not wailing and gnashing my teeth or anything (not too often, anyway). But there has been very little advancement towards a cure of metastatic cancers - including breast cancers, which are prone to being aggressive and nasty - in 60 years. So what is the likelihood that the Blue Fairy is going to come down and wave her wand and magically cure me now? About nil.

I don't want to hang my happiness or hopes or plans on a cure, because that is a fairy tale... at least, it's a fairy tale for those of us who have cancer now. Ten, thirty years down the line, maybe, but I'm not going to be here then. I've got now, so let's talk about what is important now. I've got maybe a few months of functional time, maybe more than that if I'm lucky, and then it gets ugly for a while, and then I'll be gone. So let's take advantage of what we can realistically hope I've got. I don't have time to waste on pretense.

"They could find a cure in the next couple years, so you shouldn't give up."

I don't know what to say when people say that sort of thing... because really, although their intentions might be good, they are saying that sort of thing for themselves more than for me. Maybe they need to comfort themselves, and certainly I don't want to deny them whatever comfort they can get. I don't want to make people feel worse if it's not necessary. But in the end, I think that sort of comfort ends up putting off all the things you should do when you know death is really standing near: telling each other the truth, building bridges, saying goodbye in the ways that matter most.

I can't help thinking about what it would have meant to my husband and his family if they had all faced his father's deteriorating health more directly. He could have mended ties with Scott, fully expressed his love for his other kids, built relationships with his grandchildren and left them with wonderful and sustaining memories. He could have been happy for his last few months, his last years... not more comfortable physically, perhaps, but he could have felt more loved and less lonely. They all could have felt more loved and comforted, if not less bereft, when the end came.

Stage IV cancer is called 'terminal' by the government agencies for a reason. I have a limited period of time in which to act... so if you love me, tell me now. If you're mad at me or hurt by something I've said or done, tell me now. If there's something you've always wanted to do with me, do it with me now. Tomorrow I may have to be dealing with the physical exigencies of dying, and I won't have the energy or time to deal with those other things. Don't wait in hopes that a magical cure will save you from the necessity, because it won't. Now is what we have.

And while you're at it, do the same with the other people you care about. Because you never know. Now might be better than later - and now is definitely the time to make later better, if you can.

10 comments:

mrspao said...

Hug x You are a wonderful woman and I am so honoured you are my friend.

Delighted Hands said...

Eileen, you have touched my life and I thank you for that. The honesty with grace in your situation has given occasion to many deep discussions with my daughter and we are both richer for this. I expect you will continue to exhibit valuable words and deeds in the time left to you-something we should each practice after all.

Daria said...

Eileen,

I too am stage 4 ...

All the best to you,
Daria

Nancy K. said...

I'm sorry I couldn't make it to Shepherd's Harvest. I was not able to get the time off work. I did try but my request was denied. I suppose I should be grateful that we are very busy at work so no time off requests are being granted. At least my JOB is secure (for now)!

I respect your insight and attitude. I remember when my Mother was dying. There were so many things that I wanted to ask her. Wanted to talk about. But, I was so busy pretending that everything would be OK that I lost the opportunity. I often wonder at what things she might wish she had said to me...

That being said ~ I just heard an interview with an author, on Wisconsin Public Radio. She wrote a book about a "birder" (fanatical bird watcher) who was diagnosed with terminal cancer (melanoma) and only given months to live. She lived 18 more years and traveled the world searching for rare species of birds!

I do believe you have the right plan. We should ALL live our lives as if there is a definite end in sight! Not in sorrow and remorse but with a determination to suck every ounce of love and joy out of life that we possibly can and to give as much love and hope to those we care about as they can possibly absorb.

If you ever want to come sit with a pasture full of sheep and lambs, I'd still love to meet you...

If that's not to be, know that you are loved and admired by this (as well as many others, I'm sure!) person who has never even had the pleasure of meeting you, in person.

Scientific Lutheran said...

I've read your blog for awhile, I'm a terminal lurker.

I read your blog today and took it to heart. There is something I've been putting off, and I know I have to handle it.

Maybe it just takes a different perspective to put it into place.

Thank you.

Meredith & Mike said...

It takes a lot to come to this realization and many never do and it becomes "too late" as you pointed out. Those think, accept, write or read for many, your wisdom never ceases to amaze me.

I just watched the movie "the bucket list" the other day and it also had me thinking about how fragile life is.

I can honestly say for only being 27 years old, I really do not have any major loose ends relationally that I would need to tie up if given months to live. I would spend less time at work and more time with those I love, but since I will most likely be here a few more years, I have spend that time at work currently.

Eileen,
It was a pleasure to meet you, even it it was a very short visit. You are very wise and smart. I enjoy your writings and you have taught me a lot over the past couple months within your writings.

Thank you!
meredith

Carrie K said...

But a magical cure is so much easier. Although why would it be? What's so difficult about facing life as it is? Beats me, but I'm guilty of it myself.

Probably because real life more often than not, is a bitch.

Glorious Hats said...

Thankfully you are putting it all out there for us to read and think and respond. It cannot have come easily, to find that sort of peace, acceptance and grace. Those of us whom you touch are generally a few to many paces behind as it takes time for us to also come to terms with our response and feelings too.

Hope for the best, plan for the worst. Let us have both eventualities covered. And let us not dawdle and delay in that process.

So if you and I and D want to do a road trip this summer, we best set a day, time and get it going.

I'm planning on a booth at SH next year. Planning and hoping that you will be there too with a booth of your own. If it turns out that you are not up to it at the time or can only be there in spirit, let us do think of some way to have some of your yarn, your work there - either in fashion show, or for sale in one of our booths so that no matter what happens that part of the dream will occur.

Without your encouragement, enthusiasm, joy for SH - I would likely not have gone at all this year, much less as a vendor. Thanks for providing that inspiration.

Also because of your ability to share feelings and reality of life for you these days - have taken a closer look at my own life and times. Doing some refocusing - taking more care to communicate with the family and friends that mean much to me. Thanks for that, Eileen. You are a precious gem of a friend.
Jane

Ellen said...

Is it okay if I cry? Because I am, after reading your post and all the comments of the people whose lives you have touched along with mine. I think you are a brave woman and I think you are a kind woman and I'm very glad we've met, even if only online through the craziest fiber list I have ever been a part of. I promise to take lots of pictures of my fests this year and post them so you can go with me, even if only online. I wish you well and send you hugs and love and friendship and I thank you for saying the things you have said because they need to be said. Love your friends and your family because you don't know when you will not see them again...
Ellen

Laughingrat said...

Take care, Eileen. I do wish there was something else I could do or say. Thank you for talking about all of this so frankly here.