It's not about criticizing other people. But how often do you hear about the untimely death of a colleague or friend or family member, pick up the obituary notice and read, "XXX lost his/her battle with cancer"? If once, maybe dozens of times.
Cancer kills. There's no doubt about that. And for those of us diagnosed with cancer, there are definitely times when we feel in a fighting mood, when we choose to employ metaphors of battle and images of violence to depict the struggle in which we are engaged.
But I made my wife promise me recently that when I die I want the announcement to be different. I don't want my death to be announced as a loss in a battle to cancer. Instead, I'd like the announcement to read something like this...
"Don died yesterday after living a full life for xx years. He died at peace, with his family and friends close by, saying farewell and grateful for the journey he has completed. Cancer was part of that journey, but not nearly as important as sunshine and happy days, the wonderful years of love and growth with his wife and sons, work that he accomplished with pride, friendships that lasted a lifetime, and at peace with himself and those that mattered most to him. In this wild and wondrous universe, his journey is complete, like a pebble dropped into a pond and sinking to the bottom, but with waves rippling indefinitely and extending in all directions. And, it's all right."
When I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer and decided to blog about my experiences, I had very little time to decide on the metaphor to carry me through and characterize what was happening. I choose the metaphor of a journey. That was partially because I wanted to maintain a sense of optimism, the hope that cancer was not necessarily an acute and immediately terminal diagnosis, but something that might be chronic, unwanted to be sure, but something that accompanied me as I moved forward with my life. And then I read something that struck a chord that resonated with me - “You will choose courage and hope. Though the journey was unwanted, you will choose the way you face the future and your inner spirit will prevail.” - from the preface by Cheryl Edwards to the book The Intelligent Patient Guide to Colorectal Cancer by Michael Pezim and David Owen. It worked.
This morning, as is our custom on Saturdays, we got up early, drove each of our sons to work, then headed over to Starbucks, then down to the Kitchener Market for veggies, fruit, chocolate and marble rye bread. As we traveled along our familiar path sipping coffee, nibbling on a raspberry scone or loaf, and listening to CBC Radio 2, we heard a tune and lyric which reinforced the metaphor I have chosen - the Traveling Wilburys 1989 classic End of the Line. I hope my own "end of the line" is still a long way off, but even if it is closer than anticipated, like the song says, "It's all right."