Ever since I was diagnosed with recurrent ovarian cancer, I have been contemplating my mortality which inevitably launches me into an existential, what is the meaning of my short life, and what happens when we die- crisis. I have avoided talking about death with too many people because it is just so sad. I’m writing this now from a very deep place in my heart that I was never sure I was going to expose.
With a break from chemo to do tests, scans, etc. I am not sure where I am in my treatment plan. It could go one of two ways: 1. After my doctor consults with a vascular doctor and a nephrologist (kidney doctor), they could decide that the tumor can be removed safely from around my femoral artery. If that is the case, I will be rushed to surgery and will lose a kidney and hopefully the tumor with months of chemo afterwards; 2. If they say that removing the tumor from my left femoral artery is too risky, we will do more chemo and possibly even radiation.
Being an INTJ on the Myers Briggs scale, I rely very much on my intuition which is now telling me that I will have another surgery. And I have a really, deeply bad feeling about surgery. However, I think it’s the best course of action should surgery not be too risky for my vascular system. I know I can say no to surgery, but in the break that I’ve had, my pain is coming back. I can feel the tumor growing and painfully pushing aside other necessary things like my kidney. I say that my tumor is kicking. I do not want to have to recover from such a surgery for the third time, but I really believe it’s the best course of action for me on a brain level. But on a heart level, it scares the shit out of me.
All this to say, I’m scared. Not like the kind of scared when you think you’ve done something that will get you fired. Not the kind of fear that your car will be towed if you park it in a loading zone. It’s the kind of fear that sprouts from the depths of my consciousness, steadily growing and developing until it weeds out all of my other thoughts. What if I’m not as out of the woods as I thought I was? What if I die? My greatest fear is to die on the operating table. No awareness of what’s happening. My last moments being counting down from 100 and only arriving at 97. How can one fight for one’s life if they’re heavily sedated and unconscious? I can’t decide if I should take this from a fighter’s point of view, or if I should work on accepting death. We all die eventually. But that never felt real to me until now. The thought of death is much like a cancer eating away at my spirit. I’m not sure what I believe happens when we die. But being potentially so close to death has left me more and more confused about what I believe happens after we die.
I have researched (being the typical nerd that I am) several, several others’ thoughts of death and dying. None of resonated with me until I read Molly Caro-May, author of Body Full of Stars. In her book, she explains to her precocious toddler that dying just means returning to the earth like all people and all things. That eases my trepidation some. What really calms my racing heart and the intense feeling in the pit of my stomach is thinking about so many people whom I’ve loved and admired that have died. If they’ve done it, so can I. It’s not like I have much choice in the matter outside of telling my unconscious self to fight like hell to make it through the surgery. Even if my left leg has to be amputated due to the tumor, I want to wake up. It’s like a mantra for me every time I think about it, which is like 398986681974 times a day.
I know this post goes deep. But these thoughts and feelings have been blossoming inside my head and writing is the best, most healing way to process them. I apologize if this makes you sad or frightened. That’s not what I want at all for anyone, but that’s how I’m feeling now friends. And I can no longer keep it contained in the galaxy of my mind.
As always, thank you for letting me share.
One thought on “Thoughts on Death”
Dear Maegan, believe me, you’ve won at life! Its inspiring to read your story and more awesome is that I can relate to it pretty much of it well if not all ofcourse. I am a leukemia survivor. A survivor of the most cruelest form not once but twice. And you know what kept me going when the doctors declared me “no hope?” Faith. Just plain faith.
I was diagnosed with leukemia, ended up ICU ona ventilator within starting of my treatment as i reacted badly to a medicine, eventualky gaining consciousness and surviving few months to end up being relapsed in the brain (a very rare case in my type of leukemia) and again being declared no hope till a bonemarrow transplant.
I’ve written my story too. Been through death twice.. feared dying yet coming out of it, picked up the broken pieces to become what I am now- a doctor.
Trust me, when medical sciences fail to treat you and empower your faith, then turn to God who made you and His wisdom begins when us doctors give up.. and His plans are the best plans.
Sorry for a long post, but it connected me to many many memories. Thankyou!