Leafing through the notebook where I record information from meetings with various physicians and nurses, I found several estimates of the time I have left on earth. They have different shadings of meaning.
One tells me that if I had rejected the chemo I now take every two weeks, I'd have nine to 12 months. Another says six to eight months WITH chemo. A third thinks the chemo will give me up to a year. And so on.
Of course, these are guesses. But they are based on these professionals' experience with many cancer patients and the differences come in because each patient's body is different as is each cancer.
This only points out that however much we want to believe we have control over our lives, we do not. (Leaving physician-assisted suicide available in a few U.S. States and other countries aside), death will find each of us when he or she decides our time here is done.
Following my terminal cancer diagnosis, I have gradually come to spend my time now in a middle space between life and death. Or, sometimes, in both places at once.
Living has become both larger and smaller. Smaller in the sense that I don't much want to go anywhere. I have no bucket list and unless someone is paying for a first class ticket, I'm never getting on an airplane again – it's inhumane the way the airlines pack people into coach.
At home, I love spending time with friends and soon, with my newly-found son and his family when they move to a new home near me. I am also dismayed in the best possible way by the people who have offered to help. So far, I haven't needed it, but the time will come when I will.
Small pleasures I've enjoyed for much of a lifetime have become even more precious. Letting hot water flow over my body in the shower for longer than I should. The way the morning sun shines through the living room windows. The murder of crows (or ravens or blackbirds; I don't the difference) who yell at each other in the parking lot here most days make laugh every time.
I smile and laugh at a lot more things now than I did before this happened.
On a much larger scale, I am spending time with the greatest mystery of humankind, the one we try to ignore for most of our lives: that we all die.
Although the sense of peace about dying along with the understanding I gained in my psilocybin session that death is sort of like the other side of life and not something to fear has stuck with me, my mind sometimes wanders to the idea of my no longer being here.
“I” live in this particular building. “My” stuff is gathered in this space. “I” move around, “I” talk to people, “I” go places, “I” have an impact on others as they do on me. Can that “I” just disappear?
As hard as I try, I cannot imagine a world without me. The morning after my psilocybin session, I asked my guide over breakfast if s/he can imagine the world without being in it.
The guide thought carefully about this for several minutes and said no, couldn't do it. And this is a person who has been using hallucinogens and guiding others through sessions with them for a couple of decades.
I have dark periods when I think about the day I die and sometimes the thought gets really stupid. Don't laugh, but if I choose to use Oregon's physician-assisted suicide law, I have wondered what I would wear that day. What clothes do I want to die in.
Do I want to be in bed or in a chair or lounging on the sofa? Oh, come on, Ronni. Where do these thoughts come from? It's usually on the couple of days that heavy fatigue kicks in after chemotherapy.
Even with all that, what I have noticed about myself in the three weeks since the psilocybin session is that the peacefulness I now have in relation to dying has extended to daily life.
It shows up in that old phrase about taking time to smell the roses. I feel like an idiot saying that but I've mostly been in a hurry all my life. I'm not anymore. I'm more comfortable day-to-day than I've felt in most of life and its not too much of a stretch to say that this space where I am now between life and death is among the happiest of my life.