Im dying at an alarming rate, almost 6 months ago I was diagnosed with a rare cancer and there are a million things that run through my mind on a daily basis but I think I can boil it down to three main facets of being told something like this. There’s the mental, physical and spiritual aspects of my life that all got thrown in the air and buffeted by the incomprehensible shitstorm of information that i’ve just been given.
Mentally, I try every day to wrap my brain around the fact that this is actually happening and what it means. There are a million questions that run through my problem solving brain that I, nor anyone else has answers to. One doctor tells me I have 18 months and another tells me not to think about that number, every day I feel like I’m here on borrowed time. I have no idea if between this scan and the next, things will have changed for the better or worse, all I know is that every second I have here is a gift to me and to the people I love. I cry so much and so often about everything, I cry for the loss of my dad who I haven’t even had a chance to mourn properly, I cry for my diagnosis that would have broken his heart and breaks the hearts of everyone who loves me, I cry for the uncertainty of my life but mostly I cry for all the things I’ll never get to do. There’s so much life left to live and now there isn’t enough time to live it, there’s so much I still want to share. So I try to cram as much into every day as possible and most of the time it absolutely drains me but at least I’m doing the things that make me happy. Its hard not to feel like I’m wasting time If I just sit down and do nothing, like if I’m not being productive or checking things off the list then I feel guilty. I have been gifted an incredibly adventurous and fun life and I’m so grateful for that and sometimes I feel guilty for that too. I think about all the children at sick kids hospital that don’t get to live any sort of life outside of a hospital room, their parents who know nothing but heartbreak, and then I cry for that too.
Physically, I’m plagued because of the actual change that has happened to my appearance. Not seeing myself in the mirror is a painful and constant reminder that this is real. I feel disgusted at what looks back at me, not specifically because of the way I look but more because of what it means. It means that I’m changing in a way that I have no control over. Im becoming something unrecognizable even to myself. Every time I look at a picture of myself from before my diagnosis, its a painful reminder that this isn’t a chapter that I’ll one day close and look back on, this will be with me until the day I die and will most likely be the cause of that death. All I can do to retain that shred of knowing who I am, is to keep being me as fiercely as I can, and believe me, every second of every day, I’m constantly reminding myself to keep being that person so I don’t lose that part of me that I do love. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I’m constantly terrified that something is going to change before I even know what’s happening. I know from watching my dad in his last 8 weeks how fast things can happen and it scares the hell out of me. I can’t help but think that I’m almost halfway through that 18 months, my daughter just turned two my wife isn’t even 30 yet and I may not even be at my second daughters first birthday. My life has become a bittersweet rollercoaster of emotions, where I’m constantly walking this line between happy and trying not to cry. Every little thing around me is a reminder of what’s happening to me. Every time Riley laughs, I can’t help but wonder how many more times I’ll hear that laugh. Every time I feel the baby kick in Rachels belly, I wonder if I’ll even be here to hold her. Every moment of every day is fraught with these thoughts and emotions, it’s a constant struggle to be as present as possible and just enjoy each moment for what it is. I remind myself all the time that I am here now but it’s a small voice in my head that sometimes isn’t loud enough.
Ive never been religious or spiritual but I always had an idea of what I thought happens after you die, now, I don’t know what to think or what I even want to believe happens. It’s easy to think about the afterlife and get lost in that fantasy when you’re not faced with having to enter it. Reflecting on it as your life speeds towards its end is much more scary and uninviting, I think about heaven, reincarnation, ghosts and rebirth, yet none of it seems satisfying when all you really want to do is live. i look at everyone around me and wonder, “why me?”, why don’t I get to grow old, why don’t I get to watch my kids as they grow into teenagers or be that shoulder for them to cry on after their first heartbreak? I get envious of all the people around me who aren’t going through what I’m going through and then I get angry and then I get sad and I cry some more. I spend every day fighting for every moment and a few more. At the same time friends of mine are taking their own lives, overdosing on drugs or drinking and driving and they’re doing it all by choice.
All I have now is each moment and the opportunity to make the best of it, I don’t have the choice of whether or not I can abuse and risk the time I have left, that choice has been made for me. Today is fathers day, we’ll go back to the strawberry field with Riley and continue the tradition we started last year and ill pray I’m here for many years to turn it into something special and memorable. I miss my dad every day and wish he could be here to share in these memories and experiences with me. I wish I could tell him how I’m feeling and hear him tell me its going to be okay but I can’t. All I can do is hug Riley and Rachel tight and, through tear soaked eyes, tell them and myself thats it’s going to be okay.
So what have we learnt today? I think my big take away from this would be to take that adventure, trust that events may not unfold exactly how you want them to but that you will be okay either way. Dying is incredibly sad but can also be incredibly beautiful if you let it. I think I might even be so bold as to say that my life has actually gotten better since my diagnosis. The outlook I already had on life has been magnified, so every adventure, every moment and every breath are all the more beautiful and cherished. none of us know when the end will come and even though the doctors gave me a timeline, I could still get hit by a bus tomorrow as any of us could, but none of us live like we are going to get hit by that bus. Well, I put it to you to live like you might get hit by that bus, take the chance, say what you mean to say, enjoy the moments that make the moment special. Be here while you’re here and most importantly live life with passion.