Well, I've gone and done it again - read yet another book on dying when I said I wouldn't do that.
This one, titled Dying: A Memoir, by Australian writer Cory Taylor who died of melanoma in 2016, is a whole lot more autobiography than death but there are a few points that resonated with me.
Taylor's book is not the only one that speaks about working through anger as a universal response to a medical death sentence.
Most books about death do that but I've never experienced it and as I may have mentioned in the past, the one thing I have learned all on my own through 77 years of life is that if it happens to me, it happens to thousands, millions of others.
I'm pretty sure that just as we each find our own way to live our lives and no two are alike, that applies to dying too – at least for those of us who are privileged to be given some time to contemplate this monumental transition into the unknown.
I've never asked myself, “Why me?” That is not to say I'm more virtuous than anyone else; it just doesn't occur to me. I'm more likely to ask, “Why not me?” and perhaps that's related to the fact that everyone in my family dies of cancer. What else should I expect.
Another assumption in much of the writing about dying is that we-the-dying spend a good deal of time reflecting on our pasts. Really?
Once again, not me. I've been parsing my past for all these 77 years. I know my regrets, I've made as much peace as possible with my transgressions, learned what life lessons I could glean and moved on.
How I feel about the past is how I feel about an award I once won. I wanted it badly and was thrilled when my name was called. But the next morning I was disappointed that I couldn't summon the same feelings of joy and excitement as the night before.
Of course not, I eventually realized. Because it was yesterday. What's on for today is what I cared about that morning.
A third concern of death writers – amateurs (those who are dying) and professionals (reporters and “experts”) - is dealing with unhappiness and depression.
That can't be easy but again, not me.
Some of my attention nowadays is taken up with the anticipation of death in the relatively near future. I'm almost accustomed to it now as an appendage to most of what rolls around in my head.
Which is usually about the day's priorities. I'm very much a live-in-the-now kind of girl which is to say, death sentence or not, is there something yummy for lunch?
Have I told you that food is a great, good advantage of my personal cancer predicament? As the nurses regularly remind me, keeping up my weight is crucial to my well-being so that I don't fall into frailty. That means I can eat pretty much any- and everything I please.
The higher the calorie count the better and it should include a lot of animal protein, fats of all kinds and most other stuff I used to think is unhealthy for me. Well, in fact it is still unhealthy, but as one of the oncology nurses told me, “The cancer will kill you faster than the diet.”
So keep eating. (I'm fairly certain there are a couple more orange cranberry muffins in the freezer.)
What I am finding, at least for the moment and subject to change over time, is that dying isn't too different from living. Certainly that “predicament” is never out of sight or mind, but for now it doesn't matter much in day-to-day life.
Yes, I count out my pills once a week, I show up for chemo sessions and worry a bit about what a new scan will show about how or if the chemotherapy is working while ruminating on this ultimate existential quandary.
It doesn't feel too much different from life before diagnosis.