Having been asked by one of my faithful readers - hi, Nancy! - I feel obligated to address the subject of how a person with terminal illness finds the strength to fight on.

And I'd have to answer that I really don't know. Not yet, anyway.

The fact is that I've had one fairly bad spell, and that spell wasn't anywhere near as bad as it's going to get, or as bad as other folks currently have to put up with (greetings here to my dear sister-in-arms, you know who you are), so I'm not in the position to say whether I will fight well - whatever 'well' might be - or for how long, or even when that fight might actually be truly engaged.

My current state is rather like that point we've all experienced where we can feel a really big sneeze coming on; it's not comfortable, but it's not a sneeze yet. And although we know for a certainty that it's coming (unless it's one of those rare ones that suddenly and inexplicably disappears just before we explode), we don't know for sure just exactly how bad it's going to be. Because we Aren't There Yet.

Here's what I can say: right now, I fight on because there are Bad Days, but there are also Better Days. I've been lucky the last few months, because there have been more Better Days than Bad. More recently, I've been getting... well, not many Bad Days, but more Less Than Better Days, so that's a bit discouraging. But still, there's the Better Days to look forward to, and the Less Than Better Days often have their moments. There's not much strength necessary to keep me 'fighting' right now; I enjoy life more often than not.

Some day I will arrive at the point where there will be Bad Days, and few - or perhaps no - Better Days (or even Less Than Better Days), to look forward to. I am told by health professionals that it is quite possible that by then I won't be able to think clearly enough to be able to make choices about fighting or not fighting. But if I can think in those terms, I know that my family would support whatever choice I were to make. They love me, and they wouldn't force me to suffer needlessly in order to hang on to my body for a few extra days or weeks.

I suspect that at that point my choices may be more influenced by practical matters. Unfortunately. If I were to voluntarily give up the fight, that might cause problems with the annuity from my life insurance policy, which will be necessary for my immediate family... because they will be left with the financial responsibility for the costs of my 'palliative care' during those last weeks/months and for funeral costs, etc, afterward. If there were reasonable Death With Dignity laws in MN, my choices might be different, I don't know. But we are unlikely to get there in the time I have left.**

So in the end, I may have no choice but to marshal the strength fight, depending on how one defines 'strength' and how one defines 'fight'. If we are given no choice, how can we measure the virtue in continuing down the path that fate and man's law has chosen for us?

**Why is it that if I refused to ease my cat's suffering were *she* to die a long and agonizing death via incurable cancer, I would be considered cruel - but if I wanted to ease my own suffering of a similar fate, I could be punished both legally and financially, and render my loved ones open to prosecution and even incarceration?


Jane Carlstrom aka Glorious Hats said...

Thanks Eileen for such a thoughtful, insightful and moving sharing of what you are feeling now. Hugs, Jane

timary said...


Laughingrat said...

I wish, for the sake especially of folks living with health conditions, that our culture's idea of "strength" and "fighting" were a little more inclusive. It seems so unfair to add this burden to be happy or uncomplaining to the work some folks already have to deal with.

Anyway, whatever happens, you have the right to feel what you feel, whether it's perky or not. *grin*

The Violet Hoarder said...

Please, please use your blog to do anything you want and need to do to make yourself feel better. I am not where you are, so it's audacious of me to even give any shred of advice--but try not to think about the days ahead. I know there are practical matters you have to attend to, but focus on now. All those days ahead are just a series of "now" moments--and as for myself, I spend far too many of those moments pondering the past and future. Then they're lost. All you ever have to cope with is happening at this very instant. Then another instant. Then another. You can never experience the bad or good days ahead. They aren't here. They may never be here. When I've been through troubled times in the past, trying to stay in the moment has made me realize how much easier it is to cope with only what I'm actually experiencing right now...not what I'm dreading or regretting. It's hard to do at first but worth it. Meanwhile, you may not see yourself as strong...but we sure do.

Roberta said...

Sweets...boy, this is some kind of existence? We share alot, although at different stages. We can give each other a hint of what the stages are, but not what each of us will experience on our own. I agree about the strength stuff. We can only go by what we have to face right now...and can only marshall our resources one hill at a time.
As far as easing our suffering in the end...I've had a few conversations about this. It seems unfair to put this on family members...and yet at the very end we rely on them and need them to bear the burden. The Dutch allow it without prosecution. Why are they always so far ahead of us?
Thinking of you and your family daily. And keeping my own candle lit...

Richard Hickey said...

As I keep telling Roberta, she better stay healthy or I'm taking her and the dog camping near some tall cliffs over the ocean. (-:

It's easier to joke about the reality than to face the reality.

Standing in the eye of Katrina and thinking "damn! this ain't good" was a whole lot easier than what you are going through. I know. We think of you often.

Take care of yourself.


Nancy K. said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts, once again, Eileen. You know, after I left that last comment I thought about it some more and realized the foolishness of my question.

I think you know that I have a grown, handicapped son. When Ben was a child, living at home, people would often ask: "How can you cope with such a burden?" or some such nonsense. The answer was like a glaring neon light, flashing over my head...who the heck has a CHOICE???

So, I'm thinking you muster the 'strength' because you HAVE to. And you relish the joys that do come along the way. I doubt that I could have, emotionally, handled having a handicapped child if I had been forced to look 10 years down the road when he was a baby. I got through it by taking it one day at a time. And there truly was MUCH joy during most of those days.

I hope that you continue to find joy. I made an offer on your other blog and am serious if you're interested.

I envy your spinning skills! That's how I first 'got to know you'. :-)

Do you use a treadle wheel or an electronic one? I've got both but find I only use my electronic (Roberta) these days. It's just so much easier ~ and faster.

Take care my friend. If you'd ever like to get together for a day (or an hour) of spinning, let me know. You're only a couple of hours away...