Most of us have given some thought about how we would handle it if we were given a dire cancer diagnosis, but the reality of such a happenstance would be shattering indeed.
If I were given the diagnosis of Mesothelioma, I’m not so sure how I would handle it! Mesothelioma is a disease in which cancerous tumors grow on the mesothelioma- the sac lining the internal body cavity. Mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure.
After dealing with a borage of emotions and self pity, I would ask my doctor to be brutally honest with me; no sugarcoating, just the cruel facts. I would want a second and possibly a third opinion on my diagnosis. Like Rhio O’Conner, I would do intense research in cancer treatments and I would check to be sure that I had access technology that could lead to a cure. I would make certain that I understood all treatment options, side effects, and potential outcomes including experimental treatments. I would discuss these with my mother, who is a nurse, and recruit her assistance finding resources, asking her doctor friends, talking to her patients who have gone through various treatment plans. After reviewing all my options, I would then develop my own treatment plan.
However, if my doctors convinced me there was no realistic hope of recovery, it would be time to make plans for the end we all must face. Many people go through horrid radiation and chemotherapy treatments, to no avail. Surgery is often tried; even through there is no realistic hope for a return to a healthy lifestyle. What I would not do is go through innumerable tests and treatments that weren’t going to do any good; they might buy you a few months, but would it be worth it? I’ve had family do this and all they do is prolong and increase the agony that cancer brings. It becomes an issue of quality of life versus quantity of life. I would want to spend as much time with my family and friends as possible. I wouldn’t want all my time to be in treatment rooms or doctors offices. I wouldn’t want my last day to be throwing up, having diarrhea, and making my family and friends wait on me and take care of me. I never want to be a burden to them!
I do believe in palliative care, which specializes in alleviating pain and other symptoms associated with dying from cancer. The goal is not to prolong life or hastens it but to keep the patient as comfortable as possible, and provide support to the patient’s family. There’s no reason to fear death. The old saying that “the only sure things in life are death and taxes” isn’t true: death is the only sure thing. It’s illogical to fear something that’s inevitable.
One important task to be accomplished would be to make certain that all my legal affairs were in perfect order. This would include hiring an attorney to confirm that my last will and testament is up to date and includes everything possible to make legal matters easier for my heirs. I would discuss all of this with my family and friends; I don’t want any disagreements or arguments after my death.
My final formal act would be to publicly contact my representative in Congress and any other influential politicians and tell them how much I resent not being able to go to my doctor and ask for a pill that would put me to sleep for good, quickly and painlessly. How dare some of these politicians’ and so-called religious leaders take it upon themselves to tell me that I don’t have the right to end my life on my terms? It’s the epitome of arrogance for any individual to decide they know what is best for all citizens, regardless of circumstances.
All of this sounds simple until it happens to you; that puts everything in a different perspective. I would do my utmost to stay upbeat and be philosophic about the fact that everyone has to die and my time has come. One thing that would help me is to think about and remember all the friends and family who have already predeceased me.
In summation, if my doctor ran tests and told me that I had terminal cancer and that no treatment would have any long-lasting effect, I would try and ride out the storm with as much grace as possible. I have always felt that there’s something on the other side of the mountain, even though I lay no claim to having any idea what it is. We’ll all find out soon enough.