Whenever you read a cancer booklet or website or whatever, they always list depression among the side effects of cancer. But, in fact, depression is not a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying.
There was quite a lot of competitiveness about it, with everybody wanting to beat not only cancer itself, but also the other people in the room. Like, I realize that this is irrational, but when they tell you that you have, say, a 20 percent chance of living five years, the math kicks in and you figure that’s one in five . . . so you look around and think, as any healthy person would: I gotta outlast four of these bastards.
You need to spend time crawling alone through shadows to truly appreciate what it is to stand in the sun.
The night before brain surgery, I thought about death. I searched out my larger values, and I asked myself, if I was going to die, did I want to do it fighting and clawing or in peaceful surrender? What sort of character did I hope to show? Was I content with myself and what I had done with my life so far? I decided that I was essentially a good person, although I could have been better--but at the same time I understood that the cancer didn't care.I asked myself what I believed. I had never prayed a lot. I hoped hard, I wished hard, but I didn't pray. I had developed a certain distrust of organized religion growing up, but I felt I had the capacity to be a spiritual person, and to hold some fervent beliefs. Quite simply, I believed I had a responsibility to be a good person, and that meant fair, honest, hardworking, and honorable. If I did that, if I was good to my family, true to my friends, if I gave back to my community or to some cause, if I wasn't a liar, a cheat, or a thief, then I believed that should be enough. At the end of the day, if there was indeed some Body or presence standing there to judge me, I hoped I would be judged on whether I had lived a true life, not on whether I believed in a certain book, or whether I'd been baptized. If there was indeed a God at the end of my days, I hoped he didn't say, 'But you were never a Christian, so you're going the other way from heaven.' If so, I was going to reply, 'You know what? You're right. Fine.'I believed, too, in the doctors and the medicine and the surgeries--I believed in that. I believed in them. A person like Dr. Einhorn [his oncologist], that's someone to believe in, I thought, a person with the mind to develop an experimental treatment 20 years ago that now could save my life. I believed in the hard currency of his intelligence and his research.Beyond that, I had no idea where to draw the line between spiritual belief and science. But I knew this much: I believed in belief, for its own shining sake. To believe in the face of utter hopelessness, every article of evidence to the contrary, to ignore apparent catastrophe--what other choice was there? We do it every day, I realized. We are so much stronger than we imagine, and belief is one of the most valiant and long-lived human characteristics. To believe, when all along we humans know that nothing can cure the briefness of this life, that there is no remedy for our basic mortality, that is a form of bravery.To continue believing in yourself, believing in the doctors, believing in the treatment, believing in whatever I chose to believe in, that was the most important thing, I decided. It had to be.Without belief, we would be left with nothing but an overwhelming doom, every single day. And it will beat you. I didn't fully see, until the cancer, how we fight every day against the creeping negatives of the world, how we struggle daily against the slow lapping of cynicism. Dispiritedness and disappointment, these were the real perils of life, not some sudden illness or cataclysmic millennium doomsday. I knew now why people fear cancer: because it is a slow and inevitable death, it is the very definition of cynicism and loss of spirit.So, I believed.
I told Augustus the broad outline of my miracle: diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer when I was thirteen. (I didn’t tell him that the diagnosis came three months after I got my first period. Like: Congratulations! You’re a woman. Now die.)
You may tend to get cancer from the thing that makes you want to smoke so much, not from the smoking itself.
A rumor is a social cancer: it is difficult to contain and it rots the brains of the masses. However, the real danger is that so many people find rumors enjoyable. That part causes the infection. And in such cases when a rumor is only partially made of truth, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly where the information may have gone wrong. It is passed on and on until some brave soul questions its validity; that brave soul refuses to bite the apple and let the apple eat him. Forced to start from scratch for the sake of purity and truth, that brave soul, figuratively speaking, fully amputates the information in order to protect his personal judgment. In other words, his ignorance is to be valued more than the lie believed to be true.
My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you. But for every real word spoken, for every attempt I had ever made to speak those truths for which I am still seeking, I had made contact with other women while we examined the words to fit a world in which we all believed, bridging our differences.
I thank God every day for this life, and I want there to be more, though that’s not known. What is known is that I’m alive today, this minute. And that’s pretty much what we all have – this day, this moment.
If I’ve learned anything from facing death, it is that life is not meant to be survived. Life is the greatest adventure there is. And why stop your adventuring when someone says the end may be near? The truth is, we never know when the end will actually come. None of us will avoid it forever. What’s the point in trying? Live fearlessly!
A long walk is a slow remembering of how profound and wonderful life is, God is everywhere and in everything. Wherever I look I am looking at God.
Acceptance of death and cancer did not mean I intended to give up, just the opposite. I was prepared to fight cancer not out of fear of dying, but out of joy of living.
Through the Grace of God and His medicine I am healed.” The prayer was accompanied by a vision straight out of Braveheart, a line of Scottish Highland warriors in kilts with huge shields and long spears marching in brave unison and attacking and killing the cancer. They were advancing, towards the cancer, striking and killing it with strong accurate thrusts from their sharp spears. The vision was so strong I could hear marching feet, and visibly see the cancer in me dying. “Through the Grace of God and His medicine I am healed,” became my constant prayer. The prayer awakened with me each day, coming on the wings of the morning. It followed in my heart through the day, and was on my lips as I drifted to sleep at night.
When I put down Lance Armstrong’s book, I understood something profoundly. Edie, if you can move, you’re not sick. I decided right then and there that no matter what cancer did to me I would continue to move. Movement was what the physical body was designed to do; it was how it coped and functioned. Movement was vitality. It was life.I would move. Always. No matter what. Until my last breath, I would move.
When I put down Lance Armstrong’s book, I understood something profoundly. Edie, if you can move, you’re not sick. I decided right then and there that no matter what cancer did to me I would continue to move. Movement was what the physical body was designed to do; it was how it coped and functioned. Movement was vitality. It was life. I would move. Always. No matter what. Until my last breath, I would move.
I started to walk the day I was told I was dying of cancer. I believe walking has kept me alive. I live with a constant, pressing awareness of death. Once I start to walk, I am not afraid anymore; all is well.
I came to realize we are held in the arms of God and are utterly completely safe - in life and in death, whether walking alone or with others.
I walk to rid myself of the terror of cancer, and to overcome the fear of it coming back. The fear may never completely fade, but actively engaging life – whatever that may involve – reminds me of the joy each day can bring.
I love to walk. Walking is a spiritual journey and a reflection of living. Each of us must determine which path to take and how far to walk; we must find our own way, what is right for one may not be for another. There is no single right way to deal with late stage cancer, to live life or approach death, or to walk an old mission trail.
It's all right, Tessa, you can go. We love you. You can go now.''Why are you saying that?''She might need permission to die, Cal.''I don't want her to. She doesn't have my permission.
Absence is a house so vast that inside you will pass through its walls and hang pictures on the air.
I didn't tell him that the diagnosis came three months after I got my first period. Like: Congratulations! You're a woman. Now die.
It's really going to happen. I really won't ever go back to school. Not ever. I'll never be famous or leave anything worthwhile behind. I'll never go to college or have a job. I won't see my brother grow up. I won't travel, never earn money, never drive, never fall in love or leave home or get my own house.It's really, really true.A thought stabs up, growing from my toes and ripping through me, until it stifles everything else and becomes the only thing I'm thinking. It fills me up like a silent scream.
But all that is warm will go cold. My ears will fall off and my eyes will melt. My mouth will be clamped shut. My lips will turn to glue....No taste or smell or touch or sound.Nothing to look at. Total emptiness for ever.
Do I fear death? No, I am not afraid of being dead because there's nothing to be afraid of, I won't know it. I fear dying, of dying I feel a sense of waste about it and I fear a sordid death, where I am incapacitated or imbecilic at the end which isn't something to be afraid of, it's something to be terrified of.
I just took [my cancer diagnosis] as bad luck, basically. It did strike me almost immediately, my atheist sort of thing kicked in and I thought ha, if I was a God-botherer, I'd be thinking, why me God? What have I done to deserve this? and I thought at least I'm free of that, at least I can simply treat it as bad luck and get on with it.