Almost three years ago, one of my favorite authors, Sara Douglass, tragically died from ovarian cancer. I don’t recall what led me to reading up on her again but I was delighted to find her websites have been restored. After several hours of reading, I decided to blog about my thoughts.
One thought that immediately comes to mind is an ongoing and intense debate my ex and I had about death and illness. I am admittedly a big wuss. I hate needles and all things medically necessary. I have a living will and have ever since Terri Schiavo‘s case made national news. I lived less than a mile from her (what a circus that surrounded her once the media really got involved!). I am adamantly against being artificially kept alive.
If I get cancer, I don’t want chemo. Why on earth would I want to ruin my last few months of good life? If I am brain dead, why keep my organs going when the biggest part of what makes me who I am is gone? I do not understand other people’s selfish needs to keep another from dying. Why can’t I just have peace and surround myself with those I love? No one lives forever.
The argument I would get is “But what if chemo gives you six more months or a year?” To which my response quite simply is, “What quality of life would that be?” I would rather create a bucket list and pursue it than fight against a medical certainty.
Fortunately, as far as I know, no one in my family has ever died from cancer. Heart attacks, yes. Cancer, no. So I’m not necessarily predisposed to cancer but regardless of that, if I can’t be independent, if I’m going to be a burden on those I love, and be unable to truly participate in and enjoy my life, then there’s really no point. Maybe I’m old fashioned but I think a person’s right to die is their choice and shouldn’t be taken away from them. Let me sign an affidavit with witnesses and then help me find peace. Is that so hard? Instead of being a drain on the medical community and my own family’s resources?
Personally, I think Steve Jobs did a great job. He died with dignity as far as I can tell. He sought medical treatment that would extend his life in positive ways and then when the end was certain, he allowed himself to fade amongst his family. He did as much as he could do but he didn’t cling to life unnecessarily. Patrick Swayze did the same thing.
I’m not saying I would assume cancer to automatically be a death sentence but I would have to weigh it all pretty heavily. I have had three major surgeries in my life and I hated every one of them. I’ve had over 15 dental procedures, each one more grueling than the last. I’ve developed an allergy to Novocaine because of all the dental procedures I’ve had since I was 15. Most of the time, to start an IV they have to drug me. When I was pregnant and laying on the operation table for my c-section with my daughter, my heart rate and blood pressure were so high they were concerned I might have a heart attack or other medical event. Medical procedures terrify me. Just being in a medical setting is enough to get my heart racing.
Recently I went to the doctor’s office for my annual ob/gyn exam and the office wanted to do bloodwork. It took the entire exam to convince me to let them draw my blood and they had to have the tech come to me. Thankfully it was one of the best blood draws I’ve ever had but I was still terrified. So why would I go through some of the most horrendous medical procedures known to man to treat cancer? No thanks!
I do what I can – I eat reasonably well, I’m working on losing some weight (which is much tougher since having my daughter 7 years ago – stubborn muffin top!), I’ve eliminated caffeine, I don’t smoke, rarely drink and I don’t do anything dangerous. So if cancer comes into my life, it’s obviously something outside of my control and should be a sign that my time has come. So let me go gracefully and peacefully in my own way. I can only hope I will have left some kind of positive mark on the world, through my writings, my kids, and my life.
Fortunately, I do not have cancer or any other life threatening illness. I expect to live long and prosper (thanks Spock!) and die an old, crotchety lady in my bed, hopefully surrounded by people who love me. I just want, in the words of One Stab (Legends of the Fall), what every warrior wants: “Every warrior hopes a good death will find him.” I’ve been a warrior in this life – fighting against abuse, fighting to overcome and break the chains of abuse, poverty, and violence. I’ve fought to better myself.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s been good too. My daughter is proof of that. Other children who have come into my life in need of a mother are proof too. But overall, life has always been hard, from the moment I was born two months early. So yes, a good death would be the best I could ask for after all the struggles.