NEWS FLASH: Life is unfair, and then you die

I’m 57th on the hold list for When Breath Becomes Air, that book written by the insightful but dying doctor I was telling you about a few months back. I said I was too chicken to read it, but I’ve put myself in line anyhow. Maybe by the time it’s my turn, I won’t be as scared of what the dear dead doctor has to say.

Still, you’ll never catch me at the local Death Café, a monthly drop-in coffee house for people interested in talking about death. Thanks, but I’ll pass. I wonder if any of the attendees are sick like me. I think about dying enough; the last thing I need is to talk about it with a group of people who are death obsessed.

I’ve been thinking about cancer and death and all that fun stuff lately. A hospital stay reminds me how much I hate having cancer. A while back, my yoga teacher, Kathy, said something wise that stayed with me, as she often does. She suggested that even if we do everything we can to care for ourselves, we can’t be assured the outcome will be good. In other words, we may still get sick. Kathy probably noticed me nodding furiously from the cheap seats mats.

I am one of those people who thought I had done almost everything I could to be well. I was far from perfect, and my self-care left something to be desired at points in my life, but over the years I’ve treated my body with respect. I exercised regularly from a young age, keeping myself fit if not always trim. I attended to what I ate. Fast food rarely touched these lips (but chocolate often did). I was never much of a drinker, even before Dr. Liver forbid it, and I never smoked or used drugs, except sometimes in my rebellious dreams.

Despite my caring for myself, I still got The Big C. A recent study reported 55% of cancers are preventable, but that does leave 45% that aren’t, doesn’t it? That means a lot of people with cancer simply have bad luck. I struggle with this notion sometimes. In fact, it makes me really mad.

Life is unfair. I try not to waste a lot of time stewing about this because it won’t change my situation and certainly doesn’t make me feel any better. In fact, it only makes me feel worse, and what’s the point in that? But all it takes is a hospital stay to bring the issue to the forefront.

I want to believe I have so much control over my life, but I’m constantly reminded that I don’t. As my control falters, my anxiety rises. Thank goodness I have J. to ground me when I feel myself spinning out of control. She reminds me that, whatever happens, there are two things I can control: my mood and my behaviour.

So what do I do? I eat well and sleep lots and hang with my family and do fun things like my taxes. (Just kidding; taxes are painful, but they need to be done.) And because I can control my behaviour, I’m going to skip the Death Café. That will undoubtedly improve my mood.

Basset hound sleeping on gear shift

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10 thoughts on “NEWS FLASH: Life is unfair, and then you die

    • Dear Jane: That is the most beautiful notion I could imagine. I LOVE a good Mars bar. Just ask J. I stole each and every one from our leftover Hallowe’en chocolate stash, but, come to think of it, I don’t think I varied the way I ate them all that much. One bite and it was down the hatch. I could have approached this task so much more effectively with your guidance. Thank you, thank you!! XO Annie

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  1. When my father got colon cancer at 29, it was a tragedy. We didn’t know anything like what we know now. Even so, I bet skipping that awful cafe will put you in a better mind set! Blessed be

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  2. Annie
    I have watched from afar (not that far I guess) how you have handled yourself through this difficult C journey. I often question why some people get so sick, when others that abuse their bodies can live so long. I truely admire your strength, humor, and ability to soldier through each little crisis, or side effect of the treatment you need to be on. You remain positive and stoic. and I am always surprised when you apologize for having a tear or two. I am blessed to have you as a neighbor!! PS Ice cream is good too!!

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    • Dear Karen: Thank you for your very kind words. I’m not sure I deserve your praise, though, since some days I’m a real downer. I am grateful to have the support of friends like you. More importantly, got any ice cream? I can’t quite see into your freezer from here! XO Annie

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  3. Dear Dr. Annie, I think there are few things that can make you feel so powerless as when your body does not obey your commands (Big C, MS, etc). But something like a hospital stay (or ‘spa visit’ as I like to call them) is a double edged sword… while I’m so very grateful to have the medical helpbut it’s also just a big fat reminder of how my body isn’t listening to me – again – and that I need people to help me pee, put on deodorant, blow my nose. You get the picture:)
    I thought I had learned how to do all of this by the time I was 10…-ish. So I appreciate so very much your mindset to focus on the things we can control… like how to break a world record by seeing how many Popcorn Twists I can put in my mouth at one time:)
    ( They dissolve as your trying it so it’s always a challenge.)
    I say ‘pooh pooh’ to the Death Café also – we need to visit the Life cafe’s instead!

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    • Dear phill: I wish we didn’t share our vast experience with hospitals. I do try to focus on things I can control, but I’m first to admit I’m not always successful at doing so. I’m going to have to practice your method of Control Through Popcorn Twists. It sounds like fun.

      Maybe you and I could start a Life Cafe. That idea is right up there with the popcorn twists.

      XO
      Annie

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