After careful reflection, I have decided to share this email I sent to a friend and fellow cancer patient. This person's situation is much more dire than mine, though not terminal, and cancer has inflected their life far more than it has done to me. They wrote me, asking me how I keep going without giving up. Here, lightly edited for comprehension and their privacy, is my reply. Note this is not a desperate cry for help on either of our parts. Rather, this is me in my continuing effort to give insight into the mental and emotional terrain of cancer.
Yes, it's damned hard. I often have that urge to give up, especially late at night by myself when I'm lonely and mourning my lost primary relationship or really feeling beaten up over my writing career. There really aren't any happy thoughts that help me at that point. More than once I've seriously looked at my pill collection, which would be enough to kill a squad of Navy SEALs if parceled out the right/wrong way.
There's three or four things that keep me going even then.
First and foremost, my daughter. As bad as my death from cancer would be for her, my giving up and actively or passively suiciding would be much, much worse. I simply cannot do that to her, or to my parents.
Second, I do have an incurable desire to see what happens next. This is true even in the depths of despair.
Third, I'm a staunch atheist. This life is the only ride I get, and there's nothing to look forward to once the big sleep claims me. It's a no-excuses credo, a simple faith that is a great comfort to me in these trying times, to misquote Bujold. If I actually believed in a sweet hereafter, believe me, I would be mightily tempted by it.
And, well, I have friends and loved ones and family and fans and all kinds of people I'd be letting down.
Yeah, it sucks. Yeah, odds are it's not going to stop sucking, even with my current good scan news. Yeah, odds are quite good this will carry me to an early grave. But even in the depths of despair, I can't convince myself things are so bad it's worth hurrying toward that end.
I don't know if this helps, but it's how I feel. I don't have much to offer from a distance but, well, here we are.