I often lie awake at night contemplating death and its consequences. Is it like dreamless sleep? Will I fade into the perpetual nothingness that I was obviously floating in before conception? Will I be reborn into something else?
Most of us will have these thoughts at some point or another in our lives. Prior to being sick, the thing that stopped me from having those thoughts too often was what I like to call (but am most likely plagiarising from Freud or Aristotle) the infinite time trap.
Despite knowing that I was one day going to die, I didn’t dwell on it often because I convinced myself that my time was way, way, way down the track. I’d hear about someone losing their Grandparent and I’d be sad for them but I wouldn’t worry about it too long because I’d think ‘well I’ve existed for 19 years and I’ll at least make it another 19 before something happens to me so I’m all good’. Unfortunately, getting cancer shortly after changed that.
Now this is a very arrogant assumption to make but I think that I might now dwell on these thoughts more than the average person due to my circumstances. As a result, it is equally exciting and frightening to say that it has been two years since I was diagnosed with Hogkins Lymphoma.
It is obviously exciting because I am not dead (huzzah!).
Yet it is a little bit frightening for a few reasons.
- Time flies too quickly.
It feels like just yesterday I was stumbling out of the car from my first dose of chemo, waiting for my superpowers to kick in.
But seriously, I’m sitting here reading through one of the old pamphlets from treatment and everything is flooding back to me like it was yesterday.
The jaw pain, the needles, the constipation, the numbness, the exhaustion, the weight gain, the rashes, the chest pain, the hair loss, the exhuastion. My brain can replicate those sensations so vividly in my memory that it gives me the shivers.
How has it already been almost two years?
How can memories simultaneously feel so distant yet be so graphic?
Why does it feel like time is moving so much more quickly!?
- Bad things can creep up on you.
Reading the MRI report from D-Day is the most confronting thing for me. At 3:58pm on the 13th of January, 2015, a Radiologist was dictating a hefty report on the location and size of the tumorous mass in my chest. While he was speculating whether the bony destruction was indicative of osteosarcoma or lymphoma, I was asking Mum what we were having for tea. It’s scary to think that you can be so completely oblivious to the horrible curve balls life is about to throw your way.
- Life will forever be full of uncertainties.
I’m the first to admit that I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes to certain things. I hate group work, I don’t like it when Mal eats food off my plate without first asking and I cringe when people spell the word lose with two o’s. Yet the shittest thing in the world (for me personally) is knowing that I can exercise 5.5 times a week, drink green smoothies every morning and meditate my cortisol levels into healthy submission yet, despite all that, I could still wake up one morning and find out I have cancer.
I have an ongoing note in my phone called ‘Advice to Myself’. Whenever something in my life gives me a reality check or teaches me a lesson, I write it down in this note.
“Life’s too short to stay mad.”
“There is likely someone worse off than you.”
“Don’t let the hard days win.”
My favourite for today and the rest of the year is “get on with it”.
If I take all of the time I spend worrying about dying and instead use it to do things that make me happy, then maybe when my time comes around (whether that be tomorrow or 2099), I won’t feel so frightened about crossing that void into the unknown. And if that time is tomorrow, then at least I won’t have to pay my HECS debt back to the tax department. Suckers.
Happy New Year.