It's everywhere recently, this pancreatic cancer stuff. Or so it seems to me.
Yesterday, there was a celebration for the late U.S. Representative John Lewis of Georgia who died of that disease just over a week ago. There will be more ceremonies and remembrances during the next few days.
Last Tuesday, Jeopardy! host, Alex Trebek's memoir, The Answer Is – Reflections on My Life, was published just a bit more than a year after he announced his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. To promote the book, he has been giving interviews that, of course, include a discussion of his disease.
Maybe these things are more noteworthy to me than they might otherwise be because, as many of you know, I have pancreatic cancer too. I've been living with it for more than three years which, according to my oncologist, makes me an “anomaly” - hardly anyone lives this long.
A lot has happened in my past three years – the extensive Whipple surgery and recovery, which took four or five months; two non-invasive surgeries to repair an internal bleed; three rounds of chemotherapy; an additional diagnosis of COPD; and now hospice.
If I had known in the beginning that I would still be here three years hence, I would have thought of it as a long time. But all those years flew by and the big events – such as the day they told me I had pancreatic cancer – are as clear in my mind's eye as if they had happened a day or two ago.
Time is such a squishy thing. It is equally true that an hour can feel like an entire day and a year can feel like a week. Nowadays, since they told me I have fewer than six months to live, I prefer the former – that a few minutes stretch out into many hours. Unfortunately, that is not the usual case.
There is pain these days, too, and before the medications kick in, I am in a deep, dark, dreadful mood and an hour of it easily feels like a day. When I'm stuck in the pain, my mind goes to imagining my death, picturing what it will be like.
Because when I feel the time is right I will be using Oregon's Death With Dignity Act to end my life, I probably have a better handle on how it will happen than people who wait for death to find them. It's still not a pleasant place to spend one's time.
On the other hand, I have always believed in confronting my demons head on and there can't be any greater one than death.Nevertheless, these speculative detours into what will be my final moments of consciousness, always accompanied by pain, leave me angry, depressed, lonely, panicky and generally shattered.
But wait. When the pain pills finally go to work, it is as though none of what I just described happened even while, like now, I am writing or thinking about it.
Instead, I become attached again, as strongly as crazy glue, to the world we live in. Even in humankind's once-in-lifetime predicament – pandemic, economic disaster, climate change, increasingly dangerous demonstrations, Trump's wicked and corrupt presidency – the last thing I want to do is leave.
We're not even halfway through this movie yet and the universe is telling me it's time to go??? How dare it. And yet, here I am.
For the moment, I just hope my remaining time is not as messy as whatever it is I am trying to say with this post.