EDITORIAL NOTE: Judith Graham, who writes the Navigating Aging column at Kaiser Health News and who I've known for several years, interviewed me about my cancer diagnosis along with my decision to write about it for this blog. It was interesting for me to try to answer her wide-ranging questions as best I could and she pulled it all together in her usual excellent manner.
Oddly, although I wrote today's blog post yesterday before I read Judith's story, they turned out to be sort of companion pieces. You can read Judith's story here.
One of my oldest blog friends sent an email earlier this week noting:
”...it's heartening to know that you're not going to turn your blog into a 'Watch me die,' fiasco but continue it as a 'Watch me live' play-by-play.”
My thought was then and still is, “Oh god, I hope he's right. I'm not sure.”
In this final life predicament of mine, I'm flying blind. No one is prepared for this and in my case, I am unwilling to read about how others, knowing their approximate expiration date, have navigated the remaining time.
Writing is how I help myself figure out things. I was doing it a long time before there were blogs, even a long time before there was an internet and when I decided to let you, dear readers, in on my cancer diagnosis, I also declared to myself that I would write whatever was on my mind - or as close as I can determine - as if I were writing in one of my old analog journals.
What is new on Time Goes By now is that there will be fewer reported and researched posts. Most will be like this one, conjured from the thoughts and feelings flitting around the synapses of my brain.
These are easier to write, less time consuming and I need the extra hours in a week now. One thing I have learned in this first month is that knowing death is relatively imminent means there is a lot to do to be ready. When not procrastinating, I am busier than before this happened.
My end-of-life documents are long-since prepared and appointments with medical people are arranged for the next couple of months.
But there is homework to do and decisions to be made about palliative care issues and assisted dying, cremation to arrange, many last letters to write, visits with beloved friends, cleaning out my home of what will become useless detritus when I'm gone and much needed quiet time with myself.
Surprises eat up time too – more time, it feels like, than when such things happened “before.”
A week ago, hot water disappeared from my pipes and it was determined that a new water heater was required. Wh-a-a-a-a-t? At this particular moment in my swiftly shortening life, when I have a last chance to ponder my soul's relationship (or not) with the universe, my water heater dies? Before I do? Who thought that was a good idea?
And dear god, have you noticed what it costs to replace a water heater these days? Geez.
A day or two later, while carrying a big bundle of dirty laundry to the washing machine, I tripped on a dragging towel or bed sheet and crashed to the floor, banging my knees and my forehead horribly.
Although I quickly determined that nothing was broken or bleeding, the pain was terrible - throbbing away. I lay on the floor for a bit catching my breath and after a couple of minutes burst into tears – heavy, deep, uncontrollable sobs that went on and on.
My wits were still enough with me that I could tell right away, it being my first cry since this diagnosis, that my weeping was not at all about the pain in my knees and head.
While I lay there and in keeping with my slighlty off-center sense of humor, a cartoon I had seen recently came to mind of a woman lying on her floor. Parodying that awful TV commercial, she says, “Help. I've fallen and can't think of a reason to get up.”
Nor could I. For awhile.
After 15 or 20 minutes that old, impossibly cheerful Jerome Kern/Dorothy Fields song intruded on my misery: “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again.” Really? At this point in my life I've turned into that much a Pollyanna?