“You always try to get an A in everything” she said. “You can’t get an A in Cancer.”
It was a challenge to me. “Can I at least get an A in dying of cancer?” Ambitious.
It started slowly, like the cancer. I made friends with cancer. Some died.
I couldn’t be with them, couldn’t look them in the eye, couldn’t hold their hands.
In my head, they were already dead. I wanted to scream, “You’re dying, don’t you know?”
You can’t say that to someone.
So I didn’t say anything, didn’t reach out.
I was ashamed.
If I were in their shoes, they would’ve been there for me, looked me in the eye, held my hand.
How could I do better? I started to learn about dying. I talked about death, read about it, and started to sit with it.
I visited more dying friends, slowly learning to be with them. Learning to have normal conversations, to look in their eyes & hold their hands.
For extra credit, I started speaking about death & dying at conferences.
Now I’m trying to teach others to be more comfortable with dying.
I’m still learning, reading, writing, and speaking about death & dying. More friends have died.
Soon it will be my turn.
I’ve convened a “circle of care”, an amazing group of friends and family to be there for me when I’m sick, which is most of the time these days.
I asked them to help me when I can’t help myself. When I can’t speak for myself.
I didn’t know I would need them so soon.
I’m going to get an A in dying of cancer.