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[cancer] Mortality blues and the illusion of brave competence - Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2013-03-12 04:34
Subject: [cancer] Mortality blues and the illusion of brave competence
Security: Public
Tags:cancer, documentary, family, friends, health, personal, videos
First, if you have a minute, go watch the new trailer for the Lakeside documentary. It does a pretty good job of capturing where I am right now.

I've been feeling my mortality again lately quite a bit. The recent trip to Austin, being in Omaha now by myself: lots of food for thought. Just settling in to the new reality, really. Not so different from the old reality, just a little worse. My oncologists have redefined hope from "finding a cure to return you to a normal life" to "finding ways to keep you going as long as we can." Well, okay then.

I hadn't really been expecting to be in this place at 48 years of age.

John DeNardo made a comment to me the other night at dinner about how much strength it must take for me to face this cancer and carry on. But it's not strength. It's just daily living.

I've been doing this for five years come April. In retrospect, the first year was easy. I spent most of it thinking I'd dodged the bullet. That's what I was told, after all. Then there was the lung metastasis, almost exactly a year after the initial presentation. My lung was surgically resected, I did a tour of duty in chemo hell, and we thought again I'd be fine. Then it was my liver. Then it was my liver again. Then it was my liver a third time.

It's not like I just woke up one day and found myself living in a cheap horror show. This is a very expensive horror show, constructed bit by bit over an extended period of time by my own body, its genetics gone awry and descending into the errant metabolic process that we label as cancer. I've been on a glide path into the valley of the shadow of death for years.

When I seem brave? That's mostly a combination of routinization, inevitability and psychic numbness. When I seem competent? That's just me doing what I must believe any rational person would do in my situation: gather the data, seek to understand the interpretations, and work at making the best decisions possible.

I want to live. What else could I do?

I'm probably going to die of this, probably in the next couple of years. That doesn't make me want to live any less. Quite the contrary. I'm neither particularly brave nor particularly competent. I'm just a guy with cancer who sometimes cries for fear of his life and the existential terror at the bottom of his soul. Then gets up the next day and does the best he can. Surrounded by a world full of good, loving people who do the best they can.

When you think about it, there's not a lot more to life than that.

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liz_dejesus
User: liz_dejesus
Date: 2013-03-12 12:00 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
*big hugs* <3

Edited at 2013-03-12 12:00 pm (UTC)
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beth_bernobich
User: beth_bernobich
Date: 2013-03-12 12:53 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
*hugs*
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fjm
User: fjm
Date: 2013-03-12 13:22 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Huge hugs (and in person one day soon).

And by the way: even tho I have met him, seeing your Dad was like seeing you.
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rarelylynne
User: rarelylynne
Date: 2013-03-12 13:37 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
:hugs:

When I seem brave? That's mostly a combination of routinization, inevitability and psychic numbness. When I seem competent? That's just me doing what I must believe any rational person would do in my situation: gather the data, seek to understand the interpretations, and work at making the best decisions possible.


That may be the most clearly expressed version of this I've ever read. (We go through much of this as Cait's parents.)

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Debbie N.
User: wild_irises
Date: 2013-03-12 14:56 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Yes, this. What I was going to say (and I don't have the life experience that either of you have) is that what looks like bravery and strength from the outside often looks more like the best of a set of bad choices from the inside. I think that's because it's so hard to feel into the inevitability factor from the outside.

Which is not to denigrate the actual strength involved in what you do.
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joycemocha
User: joycemocha
Date: 2013-03-12 13:53 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Hugs. Hopefully in person one of these days.
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Deborah J. Ross: hands
User: deborahjross
Date: 2013-03-12 15:48 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:hands
People sometimes ask me how I survived my mother's murder - exactly the same way. One day at a time. One breath at a time. One hug at a time.
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Tom
User: voidampersand
Date: 2013-03-12 16:32 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
It's okay to be brave and competent. Even if you don't feel that way yourself. Objectively how you are dealing with cancer is far better than what I've seen with some other people close to me.
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mlerules: Maypole
User: mlerules
Date: 2013-03-12 17:39 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Maypole
sometimes cries for fear of his life and the existential terror at the bottom of his soul. Then gets up the next day and does the best he can. Surrounded by a world full of good, loving people who do the best they can.

When you think about it, there's not a lot more to life than that.


Amen. ;-P


ox

Edited at 2013-03-12 05:40 pm (UTC)
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martianmooncrab
User: martianmooncrab
Date: 2013-03-12 18:51 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm neither particularly brave nor particularly competent.

but you are human, and the human struggle is what makes us different. Nor is surrendering to the moment, I want to see your flag flying til the end.. no matter how long that takes.. a really really long time..
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Swan Tower
User: swan_tower
Date: 2013-03-14 20:03 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm just a guy with cancer who sometimes cries for fear of his life and the existential terror at the bottom of his soul. Then gets up the next day and does the best he can.

To my way of thinking, that is bravery and competence, in their truest form. But I understand your point, too.
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emmainfiniti
User: emmainfiniti
Date: 2013-03-15 17:07 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Hugs.
Thanks for sharing this.
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