Not many people with pancreatic cancer survive for long. As a reminder, here is how I explained my condition after surgery:
”The tumor was determined to be 'clean at the margins' - that is, cancer had not escaped the pancreas.
”In addition, 17 lymph nodes touching the pancreas were removed and tested for cancer cells; two were positive. Here is what that means for me.
”There are types of chemotherapy to treat this cancer and I will meet with a medical oncologist about that sometime in the next month or two. According to my surgeon and his team, a few people respond to this treatment and live up to ten more years.
”Sounds good except that 80 percent in my circumstance who take this treatment are dead from the disease in five or fewer years. Numbers may vary from other sources but not enough to talk about.”
Yes, as some TGB readers have noted, statistics are not destiny, but they can't be ignored and further, they can certainly be used as one kind of guide when life throws up such a devastating bump in the road as this.
For now, a month since surgery, I am seeing small improvements in daily life. I'm generally pain free now, am finally catching on to how I need to eat for the foreseeable future and I've learned not to scrimp on rest. The smallest exertions still deplete me of energy so I nap a lot.
The many rest and sleep periods have given me plenty of time consider what I want to do with the time remaining to me – whether a year or two or a decade.
I don't have anywhere near a complete answer, but I do have this: a strong suggestion of one's shortened mortality makes it easy to ditch projects you were not all that interested in to begin with while shedding guilt about not keeping up with the zeitgeist.
Most of what I have so far added to my list to ignore relate to technology.
ITEM: I have now absolved myself of learning to text. It's too hard to hit those itty-bitty letters on my phone and in general, I don't have anything to say in what's meant to be a short format. “Hi there – thinking of you” doesn't strike me as meaningful communication.
ITEM: Given the extraordinary number of videos, news reports, promotions, reviews, actor interviews and more, it is clear that Game of Thrones has become a cultural icon of enormous proportions, something anyone who pretends to knowledge of American pop culture must be familiar with.
Although I have deduced that GoT is a television program (are there books too?), I have zero knowledge of what makes it noteworthy and now I don't have to try to figure it out.
ITEM: “They” are now at it again, telling us in recent months that virtual reality and augmented reality are the next big thing. (I suppose that's why Google Glass failed so spectacularly and was pulled from the market two years ago.) This new iteration has yet to materialize and I'm ignoring it – happy to go to my grave steeped in the real world.
ITEM: And I've stopped feeling guilty about my deficiencies – based on dislike – in Facebook and Twitter. Yes, I know that a billion people on earth use FB. That doesn't mean I must and I use it minimally to accommodate readers of this blog. Beyond that, I'm done with thinking I really should put my mind to mastering it.
As for Twitter, there is nothing I have to say in 140 characters or fewer that is worth anyone's time. And I have blacklisted Twitter's daily emails telling me how to “get more people to pay attention to me.” That wasn't a goal in my life before my diagnosis and certainly not now.
It feels great to free myself of these “shoulds” and they are just the tech-related items. I've also made peace, for example, with the idea that I am unlikely to re-read all of Shakespeare before I die. And I have a tentative list of other items I'm considering adding to what I now think of as my reverse bucket list.
How about you?