The Specter of Our Own Deaths : My Cancer There's really only one thing that's tougher to talk about than cancer, and that's death. As we have talked about on this blog before, death is the elephant in the room. When we say we're fighting cancer, coping with it or trying to live with it, ...
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The Specter of Our Own Deaths

There's really only one thing that's tougher to talk about than cancer, and that's death. As we have talked about on this blog before, death is the elephant in the room. When we say we're fighting cancer, coping with it or trying to live with it, really what we're talking about is the specter of our own deaths.

Jane wrote in the other day to say how difficult it is to talk about, and she wondered if we're not in a state of denial. I don't think so. I think every cancer patient knows what this is really all about. Of course, everyone knows that they're going to die. But for most people, that's something way off in the future. When you're young, you're invincible. You think it may not happen to you, and certainly not because of all of the really stupid things we do when we're just starting our lives. As you get older, death comes for other generations — our grandparents and ultimately our parents.

And then there comes the time when it starts to sink in that it happens to us: friends, people our age. We can no longer ignore it. But I think each of us hoped that death would come for us when we're much older. We believed that we still had a lot of time.

Well, cancer changes all of that, of course. Predictions of our deaths are laid out not in decades, but in years and even months. Death is always in the room, sometimes sitting quietly in the corner, sometimes getting right in our faces. I think the biggest thing that separates us from the people who don't live in cancer world is not the pain, not the treatments, not the fear or sadness. It's that we have a pretty good idea of what's going to kill us, and a pretty good idea of when that might happen. Some of the mystery is taken away.

That doesn't mean that we should give in to hopelessness. Quite the contrary, I think it just means that for us, death is more a part of our daily lives. But as Hunter Thompson said, "Buy the ticket and take the ride." The ride is no fun if there's no risk, if there's no danger — even if it's an illusion of danger. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't take our hands off the safety rail, hold them above our heads and scream like crazy. What have we got to lose?

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