ELDER MUSIC: Classical Predilections 3
A TGB READER STORY: All the Lawn’s a Stage

When Cancer Becomes the Norm

On Saturday, I woke as usual at about 6AM, worked my way through my customary personal hygiene routine, dressed for the day and went directly back to bed.

You can be forgiven for thinking that's hardly noteworthy but you might change your mind when I tell you that in my 78 years, I have never – not once - done that.

That's because there is no telling nowadays when I will get tired; I've learned to indulge myself when I need to.

I've had more time than I realized to slip into that frame of mind. It was a surprise when, a few days ago, I noticed that it has been nearly two years since I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Twenty-two months to be exact.

Few people in my predicament live that long. Pancreatic cancer is one of the rarest and most deadly cancers - only 10-15 percent of patients are eligible for the Whipple surgery I underwent as soon as the disease was discovered. Even with that, only 25 percent of people who have the Whipple are alive five years later.

But here I am, grateful for the additional time granted me but wondering if I am using it wisely. (Dear god, as I lie dying on my last day, I do not want to be shouting, “Wait, wait, there's something I forgot to do...”)

If I believed in other-worldly things, this feeling that I may be neglecting an important task or obligation, even if only for myself, would exist in a different context.

But either way, death is one of the two biggest events in life. I can't recall the first and I don't want to make a hash of this last one.

While I've been working through all this, the care and maintenance of cancer has become my norm, taking up more time than I would have guessed before this happened to me.

I've become accustomed to being bald – I hardly notice my naked pate in the mirror anymore but it's a whole different thing to enjoy wearing hats versus needing one so you don't scare people..

Counting out 16 pills a day into their tiny, little boxes gets more boring and therefore irritating each week. Worse is remembering to take them at the right times.

Keeping daily records of weight, blood pressure and any pain takes time I resent and too often I forget to do.

A daily mental inventory of how my body is functioning helps me manage daily life and still get everything done.

For example, for a few days after chemotherapy, my breathing problem is at its most difficult so I now organize trash take-out, vacuuming and bed changing to better days when I don't need to stop and rest two or three times in the middle of each task.

Tracking my body's requirements – when to rest, when to eat, what to eat, when to contemplate my predicament, etc. - helps keep me as healthy as possible.

Lately, I've been thinking more frequently about when it will be time to let go of all this and say goodbye. I feel good enough most of the time not to need to decide that right now but I ask myself if I will know when the time comes. I used to believe I would know; now I'm not so sure. I'm working on it.

Until the past two years I never did any of this. Now it (and more) is burned into my routine as much as brushing my teeth. I'm not happy about it but it's the trade-off for wanting more quality time.

I know many people besides me live with cancer or a different chronic disease or condition, and having now been there myself for awhile, I have gained enormous respect and admiration for them.

This isn't easy but we are stuck with it, and we are all old enough to know that sharing these things helps a lot.

As for the popular admonition not to talk about our troubles – phooey. When you had babies, you talked about about babies. If you got divorced you talked about that. When your kid got married, we couldn't shut you up. All to the good.

Excuse me now while I have a nap.


Good to hear from you this Spring morning.

It must be so frustrating to have things your would really like to do, realizing that the things you must do take so much of your time. It occurred to me just a day or two ago that if I, who am relatively healthy, did everything my healthcare professionals have told me to do each day, I'd not have time for living! You are doing much better at following the path you are counseled to take than would many of us. Kudos!

Hope you enjoyed your nap. I agree that you should take one whenever you feel like it!

So much work you are doing!!! Both living and dying mean work. Thinking of you so much.

How much I agree with your "phooey" to not talking about our troubles - there is an enormous relief in venting to friends - who are often at the same stage or worse off!!!! Finding that fine line between "that's great" and "that's enough" is sometimes difficult - but worth the effort -as usual Ronni - great to share your day.

I continue to appreciate the time and effort it takes you to share your experience with us. One of the greatest gifts you will leave behind is what you have shown us of your place in this predicament. You are not a teacher, but we will learn from you all the same as you have laid open much of the good and the bad and the unknown. Thank you, Ronni, for being willing to talk about it!

Write away, Ronni.

Thinking of you as you travel this journey. I hope you have a good day today.

Guess it's second nature to worry about what we need to get done but may not have time to do. In any case, what you have accomplished, Ronni, and shared in your blog has already far exceeded any expectations you need to worry about at least from your readers. I don't know anyone who has or could be as open, realistic, and, yes, brave for not holding back. I suspect it's also true for the other aspects of your life.

Thinking of you often as this week of anticipation unfolds.

Ronni, you are an amazing woman. I can’t tell you how much your sharing of your journey means to me. Thank you!

luv ya, Lady!

So a nap took you by surprise! Sleep, sunshine, death, rain, and laughter are like that. Enjoy the naps, they can do you good. What gets done, gets done or somebody else does it for you or, mmm, it doesn't get done at all. Have another nap.
"April, come she will, when streams are ripe and filled with rain..."

Happy to come here and find you this morning. I wonder - awaiting the medical results/reports must be exhausting, at least in an emotional way. I often find when I am feeling stressed over situations I cannot control, I kind of shut down a little and sleep is always a good respite. Wishing you refreshment and good news ahead.

I'm mindful of my brother-in-law.
After he got his diagnosis (and perhaps after some prodding from my sister) he did everything he was supposed to do up to the point when he told my sister they were going on vacation. They went to see the Arizona and they went to see his kids and some old friends, and then he let them bring in a hospital bed and park him next to the window near the hummingbird feeder. Don't know how he knew, but he did.
Up until now, he's been my role model for how to do this. but you're getting there. Thank you so much for letting us come along with you.

Thank you for all the efforts you make for us.

I have found my age to be the basis for a blog … I have never felt the empowerment so much as when I can express myself … for my own sake. I'm a 94 year ole guy with a nonagenarian for my wife.

When you are old and/or sick you learn to do what your body tells you to do. Yesterday morning I awoke at the usual time, but didn't get up and kept falling back to sleep. An hour later I decided to get up and threw the covers off. Before I could force my old body to an upright position I fell back to sleep again and slept for another hour. I felt better all day thanks to the extra 2 hours of napping.

We learn to listen to our bodies. You are wise to do so, Ronni.

I ditto your comment on talking about our troubles. If I didn't talk about my latest physical condition I wouldn't have a topic to talk about at all.

You are truly amazing. I am so so happy to have found you.

Nap away kid!

Glad you're making it to the spring. The trees are so beautiful, all those lovely pinks, reds, whites and the pale greening of the trees. Are you getting out at least a bit during the day? especially during our intermittent sunny warm days.


Thank you for sharing your journey with the rest of us here in the boat with you! Feel free to talk about your troubles and to whinge and moan when you want to! We care!

Has it really been two years already? Sure doesn't seem that long. Why is it that when we wish we had more time, it passes even faster?

Wishing you a beautiful spring day.

Yeah, a chronic whatever is a pain. Your communications are worthwhile and
interesting to read. The really bright side to all this is still having your intelligence and abilities to prepare for the night. Heck, there might even be some new innovations coming! As a kid, my asthma (trauma created) was only treatable by ground cattle pancreas'. Very salty (not even on the internet now
under the name Episcorb) and multiple "blue laws" to deal with when we could even purchase such. We had no money so I stretched out the ration with tap water. Now asthmatics have any number of controllers available, some even otc. Your missive, as usual, is enlightening and fascinating to absorb. What energy and steadfastness in the face of such headwinds!!!!

OH, Ronni,
Never forget "Rule 101....Naps." You always take them regardless of time.
It is like giving up exercise, flossing, and worrying about dementia. Enjoy the moment.

Hugs, Redstone

You need something else to do like a hole in the head, but I know many of us would love a compendium of this two year journey.. have you thought of creating a book out of it? It’s already written, just needs editing (ha, just needs editing, we know that is a job!) If you think you want to do it and need help, just ask. There are surely editors, including myself, among your fans.
Best to you,

The way you are choosing to walk through this is exemplary to me. A nap after breakfast, why not if that's what's needed? If not for my little dog, I would definitely sleep late on some mornings.
About the concern about making a "hash" out of your dying, or not doing something that seems important.............we all desire to die with "dignity," whatever that means to each of us.
But the more I think and read and see? It's not a test, and we just die how we die. One friend died minutes after a sort of monstrous seeming madness, another died, peaceful seeming, with what might have been a small smile. What was going on for each? Was one really around the bend and the other happy and peaceful? Who knows? All those neurons, all that complicated wiring and stuff inside, dying is letting go of all that, and if it gets a little weird or uncomfortable to onlookers, well so be it. We don't control it. That said, I've never read of someone who had a near death experience they didn't like. Ah sweet mystery of life........and death.

Meanwhile.........You are just IT, Ronnie, you just nail it right, left and center. I'm so grateful. Nap time.

I find that I am feeling a lot of the things you are and I don’t have cancer. In my 70s, I find that people are drifting away from me - not so much through death, although there is some of that. Some days it’s hard to keep my spirits up, even when I’m busy or being social. I feel that I’m drawing more into myself and who the heck wants to join me in that? Just starting to figure this out. Thank you Ronni, for helping to inform me to listen to myself. “Something is happening and you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?”

I love you, Ronni!

Sleep as you must Ronni. I got up at 6am this morning had a piece of toast and my pills and went right back to bed and slept to 10am. Sometimes a person just needs to do that. Love you lots.

Sleep's the best medicine - so nap away.

Nap on sofa, everyday after lunch. Yum!

!! Of course--you do what your body tells you to!

By the way--I know quite a few people, and I mean women, who have been ordained as Buddhist priests. They get their heads shaved when they're ordained, and many (most?) of them maintain the shaven look forever after. I don't think I've asked them if they throw on a cap when they go to the bank in bluejeans.

IMHO, you should not be doing household chores like changing sheets, vacuuming, cat box, garbage etc. Have you thought about having someone come in once a week to take care of the basics, if only for a few hours?

Hope you had a great nap. George teases me when I doze off over a book after lunch as I did today..
I'm getting ready for two small surgeries, and I am nursing all the aches and pains that appear just when you don't want them. Wearing out for me started at age 13 with appendicitis, and has surgeried on until this month. I get a knee fixed and an eye cleared. I was kind of hoping my torn rotator cuff was next, but I guess not.
The biggest thing I need is a sense of humor as I wear out.

Part of the reason we talk about our ailments is that HOLY CRAP, HOW IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME? is a kind of recurring leitmotif.

We forget all the years we mindlessly did whatever we wanted. We cringe when we realize that, as kids, we used to eye-roll whenever our own elders began the "organ recital."

It never occurred to us (though it certainly does now!) that just the pure shock of formerly reliable powers' failure is many things--an inconvenience, a sadness--but ALWAYS, first, a surprise.

I find myself napping after breakfast sometimes. The first time it happened I had this secret shame and now I talk about it openly. It is all part of my decreased energy and dealing with the exhaustion of pain from PVD. I resent all the meds, the readings but today in my journal after a Tao meditation I realized I had to become more involved and as caring as my specialists who require these indicators to do their best in care for me.

Inside of all of us is this recalcitrant 5 YO, crossing her arms and pussing her face. We do need to indulge her from time to time.

But I too, find a fairly "do-nothing" day can be exhausting. I plan events, even to laundry, carefully.


Hugs and love to you as you take this journey. You’re never far from my mind.

Talk about whatever you want to talk about whenever you are in the mood.

We're here to hear you.

Let the music play.


Much love ❤️

Hey Ronnie. Do what you damn well please. YOU write the rules. Ice cream for breakfast. A dirty house. Who cares? Please yourself. Nap after sleeping, whatever floats your boat. Please don't succumb to the I must be doing something ethos. You are. You truly are. You are living. Now and still. You are giving to all of us. Let it be. You don't need to do. Only be now. Be as you want. Selfishly and glorify in it. Love you and the wisdom you have shared and we are all the better and deeper for it,


You made me laugh! "wait, wait, there's something I forgot to do!" LOL

Naps are delicious, as many people have commented. Nap on!


This blog entry, in it's own way, was truly a treasure.

I'm grateful for your sharing here, and all the comments that have been posted before me. What a community of people who are undergoing a similar journey, but mainly are supporting yours! Thanks to all of you. You enrich my life, give me strength when lying down is what is called for, laughs when I feel most blue. Thanks a zillion to all of you! Even if you never read this, I hope my love can come through the ether somehow!

Your blog has probably helped more people than all those self help books about dying and cancer.

Because of the nature of your blog and your personal attitudes on life, I know you’ll post until you no longer can and it will give us insight to death we can’t find anywhere else.

It is a wonderful gift you have given us.

hi,Ronni. As always..."2 thumbs up!" Your posts and those of your readers make this such a comforting and joyous place to be. Do you have dreams when you nap?

Well said and Your sharing is very well received.you have taught me a few things.
Allow me to felicitate you saying "you are one tough cookie!"

“This isn’t easy but we’re stuck with it “ was my mother’s line about dementia, and mine about recovery from multiple gunshots. Giving The Beast credit for the mountains it puts in our way gives the conquests, small, personal, fleeting tho they may be, an extra frisson of wonderfulness.

I’m stuck with you, but you are not all of me.
Love to you, Ronni.

“Sleep that knits up the raveled sleave of care, The death of each day's life, sore labor's bath, Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course, Chief nourisher in life's feast.”

The balm of hurt minds, indeed.

I think it is time to have someone else do your housecleaning, my dear! TOOO BOOORING!

Have you got any luxurious caftans to lounge in? Be a princess. Let your inner brat out.

A friend's father-in-law was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He said he didn't really have a bucket list, so her husband advised him to develop a "fuck-it" list. You've done that with exercise, I know, but vacuuming, ironing, dusting, cleaning the bathroom, and listening to obnoxious people definitely belong on it. What else can you come up with?

The comments to this entry are closed.