So, my life expectancy has been drastically reduced. For better or worse, it is not in my nature to live in the moment. I’m a planner, always have been. I plan out the meals I’m going to prepare for the following week; I’ve been trying to plan out my now-obsolete retirement; I’ve been planning out how much longer I’ll drive my minivan. I plan everything. Now I’m planning for what? A few years, a few decades? Should I stop saving for retirement? Should I take up tanning and smoking; both of which I think I’d really enjoy? What exactly should I tell the kids? It’s driving me bananas. Honestly if I didn’t have a family I’d probably just give up and spend the rest of my life on a beach in Mexico. But here I am, trying to plan out how to maximize my time and quality of life for the rest of my possibly short time on Earth.
Now that I’ve been diagnosed with a terminal illness, I’m reminded of examples of people that have greatly exceeded their life expectancy. Stephen Hawking is one example. Valerie Harper and Jimmy Carter have lived years with brain tumors. Sometimes I use the analogy of being diagnosed with HIV in the 1990s. At the time that was a death sentence, but now those people are still living. Even though there is still no cure, those people will likely live a full life and die of something other than AIDS.
Despite the diagnosis, I realize there is much to be thankful for. I didn’t die suddenly in a car accident. I have time to enjoy life and think through any end-of-life decisions. I am also really glad that I’m the one who was diagnosed with cancer, not my children. I can’t imagine anything more difficult than having a child with cancer or a chronic illness. Just in terms of my cancer, I think I have a relatively good prognosis for being Stage 4. For one thing, it is just in one localized area of my skeleton; so really intense, localized therapy is possible. Also, cancer that has spread to the bones doesn’t travel to other sites as easily as cancer that has spread elsewhere. It is less aggressive than if it had returned in other usual spots of metastases, the lungs, liver, and brain.
But, to be honest, I’m just not sure what the future holds. A few years ago, I witnessed a friend with breast cancer pass away within two years of diagnosis. As much as I’d like to be positive, I also want to be realistic and be prepared for more negative outcomes. Ultimately, the only things I can do are hope for the best and do my best to remain healthy and positive.