Saturday, February 18, 2006
An Unwanted Journey: Day 0086 - Embracing Cancer
I’ve reached a hiatus in my cancer treatment. It’s a welcomed change of pace from chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The side effects of radiation proctitis, diarrhea, and fatigue will gradually, albeit too slowly for my liking, begin to dissipate over the next three weeks. I’ll start to feel better day by day.
This break of close to 6 weeks before surgery means that there will no longer be daily treatment story lines. If there are to be new stories, either they will have to find me or I will have to look very, very hard.
Here’s one that fell upon me.
June Callwood – sometimes called Canada’s Conscience.
I’m watching her now on TVO describing her willingness to die soon from cancer. She is talking about the death of her son Casey (for whom the hospice Casey House in Toronto is named) and the utterly devastating effect of his untimely death upon her and her family. Her acceptance, even embracing, of her own immanent death is apparently strongly coupled with that eternal sadness of burying her own child who was killed by a drunk driver who struck Casey’s motorcycle in 1982. “Dying isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you, losing a child is the worst thing and we’ve been through that…dying is nothing compared to losing a child.” My parents and my aunt have both been through this experience. Whatever I am going through cannot compare.
In 2004, Shelagh Rogers interviewed her about her approach to cancer and death. In her case, the oncologists haven’t found a primary tumour. Once a month, she has a CT scan looking for the primary cancer. She isn’t in pain, but she has lost a lot of weight. Plus, as she says, “She doesn’t give a damn.” She truly has embraced both her cancer and her death.
Like me, Callwood doesn’t believe in life after death. But unlike her, I am not ready to embrace cancer or death. It’s not yet my time. But I do hope that when my time comes, I can respond with the dignity and fearlessness she displays.