“Man unconsciously organizes his life according to the laws of beauty, even in times of greatest pain.” ~ Milan Kundera
When my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer, I went through waves of emotions. fear, anger, sadness. An entirely new dictionary was opened that was previously inaccessible. The realms of experience, thoughts and feelings that underlie human life suddenly became apparent.
After the initial dread and fear of hearing the news subsided, I was amazed to find new meaning and connections to the world around me.
In part, it has been very lonely to deal with this news. I was overwhelmed and humbled.
I was immediately confronted with how much I had avoided other people’s experiences because of my fear of cancer.
Our minds shift when we face terminal illness. The fear and pain that comes with cancer can be difficult to disentangle from a life that, despite cancer, is so rich and dignified.
We see cancer as a deviation from what human life is supposed to offer. Part of this can be found in the values we hold within our culture and the idealization of productivity as proof of our worth and joy as the ultimate symbol of success. There is no room for hurt, pain or death in this fast-paced, luxury-obsessed world.
On a personal level, I understand that it is hard to avoid thinking of cancer as an evil intruder that robs us of those we love, sabotaging our chances of a good life with debilitating symptoms and treatments. Cancer is a scary reminder of limitations and loss.
When I learned of my father’s terminal diagnosis, I was greatly affected by the anticipation of cancer in that I immediately began to grieve someone who was still very much alive. As if it wasn’t really life.
After all, apocalypse means there is no cure. It means that if left untreated it will kill you. It also means that treatment cannot keep you alive forever. And given the risk of complications, you’ll die from it unless you die from something else in the meantime.
My initial reaction to this news was that parents should make the most of the time they have left together. They have always been avid travelers and were excited to talk about traveling when they were older, as far as I can remember.
I instinctively felt some existential dread on their behalf, and encouraged them to pull out their bucket lists, start packing their suitcases, and start traveling while they still had the chance.
Now I see how wrong my reaction was. For my parents, all the charm of travel disappeared when they were motivated by the ticking clock of their impending death. will die, and you haven’t reached the end of your bucket list!”
After all, life is more than a collection of ideas we have about what we are going to do or where we are going. Sometimes only the most serious situations can show us what is sacred in our lives.
After getting through the pandemic, getting a cancer diagnosis put my dad’s life on a bit of a standstill. But despite my initial misgivings on his behalf, it wasn’t the sad ordeal I thought it would be.
on the contrary. His father woke up from a life of constant travel and planning for the future, but found he loved the life he was currently living.
The abundance of life is not on the beaches of Spain, but in his first home, next to the forest he loves, and on days when the wind is calm, you can hear the sea. Drinking coffee in the garden with his wife and reading a book with his devoted, purring cat. We use fine china for breakfast and play board games on rainy nights.
I’m sure my father has moments of terror about his illness and death, but mostly he’s just dealing with an existential and human need to be treated with dignity. Anyway, it’s more than a symbol of death that eventually comes to all of us.
Cancer brings a whole new world of thoughts and feelings. A lot of it is heavy, a lot of it is fear and pain, but there is also dignity, humility, connection, love and acceptance. It requires new ideas about life and death, people, where we come from and who we are.
I can’t imagine anything more human and dignified.
Ever since I found out that one of my favorite people in the world had terminal cancer, I’ve been going through waves of emotions. It’s never been easy, but life doesn’t always have to be easy. I traveled somewhere deep and unfamiliar, and there I found something I never thought possible: hope.
Hope does not always mean a promise of a better future or of finding cures for physical and mental ailments. is finite. It shows that every moment is sacred and every life has dignity.
we live before we die There are many reasons for our death. Cancer may be one of the reasons we die. We may get cancer and die of something else. It doesn’t define us. Also, they should not define each other by it.
You may be surprised to find hope when someone looks at you and utters the word “terminal.” Hope, after all, wears many hats.