I first heard about Dr. Paul Kalanthi’s inspiring essays on facing death head on, after his death at at 37 due to Stage IV metastatic lung cancer. The first one I read summed up my feelings as I face my Stage IIIb colon cancer in the same manner–I quit reading the statistics and started focusing on what I needed to accomplish in whatever time I had left, whether that be 6 months, one year, two years, 30 years or more.
Here is a link to the first essay I read: “I can’t go on. I will go on!“ Paul wrote this essay on March 9, 2015, hours before he succumbed to his cancer. After reading his New York Times essay from January 2014: “How long have I got left?“, I felt compelled to write my thoughts, feelings, etc., on my blog:
This pretty much sums it up. Living with uncertainty is difficult. But, you learn to live and hope for the best, prepare for the worst. Make plans, do what you can. I quit looking at the stats–they don’t stratify based on my particular mutation, and many simply lump all colon cancer together. Frankly, this is not helpful to me. I quit looking at most blog and websites, as they were not helpful, either. I want to hear from those who survived. What were their circumstances? What mutation did they carry?
Being a geneticist, I understand that my unique genetic and epigenetic background plays a major role. I have learned to let it go, trust in my team and keep on moving forward.
I’ve found hope in many places. I’ve been given the strength to carry on by friends, family and the entire MRKH community. My good days now equal my harder days. I’m learning to ameliorate my side-effects, and in doing so, my body tells me to start getting stronger, that it’s time to start living again, not simply surviving. Surviving to me is not living. My soul thrives on travel, exploring new worlds, finding new, secret snorkel spots. This is what heals me emotionally. Without this, I’m living, but it’s a hollow existence. Maybe if I had children I would feel differently, but my inner most person requires more from life. I need to LIVE, to EXPLORE, to SPEND TIME IN BLUE WATER. It’s time to start planning a return trip to Kauai, Hawaii, where I eloped on the beach, where I snorkeled for hours, where I found the place where my soul feels at home. When I stepped off of the plane on Kauai in late January of 2001, I felt at peace; I felt at home. I found the place where I belonged. I need to return to feel that again.