Sometimes, you have a definite turning point where your attitude towards life changes. I wonder how often it’s when someone tells you what you already know, but in a different way.
When I had my third cancer, last April, I was told by several doctors that one in five people with it lived five years. (The odds don’t really apply to me. That last cancer was detected early, and had probably travelled via capillaries, so all traces of it were probably taken out.
Thus, there’s a good chance I’m taking mitotane (Lysodren™) for no good reason. Still, I don’t think the “make sure my family can carry on past my death” preparations helped me to evade having my mortality sitting on my shoulder all day long. The darkness was there and it was hard to avoid it.
Bill Schiemann is the founder of my former (1998-2001) employer, Metrus Group, which does various things to bring corporate attitudes, capabilities, and engagement into line. I worked on employee surveys and linkage analysis there. When Bill heard I’d had cancer, he told me about Marisa Harris, a former client who was given a dire prognosis and now runs a web site for survivors.
There are lots of people who have made it past the odds. I think it makes a difference when it’s someone you know, but what really made a difference was having things I could actually do. Other than take the energy-draining, memory-destroying, chock-full-o’-side-effects-but-cheap drugs. (Current research on my particular cancer ignores most of Marisa’s suggestions but does endorse the mitotane — fooey — as well as taking statins with it, and being a man, which apparently helps the odds somehow.)
The point is, reading her web site stopped me from focusing on death and took darkness from my life. It made me very, very happy. It was empowering. Even if the cures come to nothing, I will have lived a better life.
The specter of death is further off now, and as my GP says, I can focus on not having a heart attack instead (she’s a barrel of laughs).
I suspect a lot of us have had those turning points, places we can point to that took us out of the darknesses. Have you had one?