Sunday, December 8, 2013

On Mortality

On Friday, I learned I have stage IV metastatic melanoma in my rib, lungs and shoulder (and maybe hip).  Having previously beaten a lesser stage of this disease 3 years ago, I feel much better prepared to handle it this time around.  I have a deep knowledge and understanding of melanoma that I lacked the first time around, and I have developed relationships with wonderful people who can help me now.

With the exception of my fractured rib (caused by the melanoma that's growing there), I feel physically normal.  I'm realizing now that the emotional impact of this cancer is affecting everyone in my life as much, if not more, than it is affecting me.  It's much scarier to consider someone you love having a disease about which you know very little and for which the statistics are not promising, than it is to be positive and assume that everything will turn out fine.

Here's the thing: statistics are just statistics.  I have a lot in my favor - I am young and otherwise healthy, and I am positive and have an army of friends, family and other resources who are standing beside me through this ready to fight for/with me.  Every case is different, and the treatment options are growing and becoming more and more successful with every day and dollar of research.

I told my roommate my diagnosis on Friday night.  He went to "take a nap" and emerged from his bedroom an hour later looking like he'd seen a ghost.  He had been reading those statistics and learning about melanoma.  After we talked about it a bit more, he started building a Bucket List for me (and him) to work our ways through; a great idea, but a morbid one.

The fact is, we all have limited time in this life.  Making the most of that time and doing everything you can to enjoy whatever you've got is a great way to live.  I could get hit by a bus and die tomorrow from that, or I could live another 80 years.  I could die from melanoma in the next 5 years, or I could live another 80 years.  I can sit by idly and let my quality of life slowly deteriorate until I die of melanoma, or I can attack this cancer with the best treatment available and buy some more time in this life.

I'm dreading the side effects that will accompany whatever treatment I end up choosing.  None of it is easy to go through, physically or emotionally, and all of it reduces quality of life for the duration of that treatment (and often beyond).  All of this is in exchange for a little more time at the end.  I feel like I'm trading time for more time - it's like any financial investment: give up a little cash now so that you can have a bigger return later.  But there's a risk in doing that.  You could lose.

The problem is, either way I'll lose that time - in treatment with awful side effects and hope of a healing cure, or in doing nothing and letting myself slowly and painfully die.  So I've got to try and hope for the best and just get through it.  And in the meantime, I'm adding to my Bucket List and making plans to most enjoy whatever time I have left in this life, be it 5 or 80 years.

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