When I was diagnosed, Erik was helpful to me in numerous ways, and though I balked at the idea of having chemo and radiation, and though I said I'd rather die than have a colostomy, Erik urged me to have all the life-saving treatment offered, because he'd just lost one person who was dear to him and did not want to lose another.
My friend Charles, whose wife Janeen had died tragically several years earlier, began calling me more frequently to encourage me in the cancer battle, and to tell me about his own fight with pancreatic cancer. He kept telling me that God told him he was healed. If God was talking to him, I was pretty sure the "healing" he promised would be the ultimate kind-- in which one escapes the illness by escaping the mortal body. I didn't believe he was going to be around long. He wasn't. Charles soon joined Janeen, and I lost another friend to cancer.
My friend Freda began posting updates about her struggle with breast cancer. I used to feel jealous of breast cancer patients, because it seemed to me they'd all end up with cute, perky, new, fake boobs that would never sag. True, they'd lose their hair for a while, but it would grow back, and they would look better than ever. I, on the other hand, had been permanently mutilated and would never look normal again with my clothes off. But Freda soon developed metastases to her bones and her brain. She was in a lot of pain. Eventually, she joined Charles and Janeen.
I was getting a little angry, and more than a little worried. I'd imagine, at times, that my dear, departed friends and relatives were very near, just beyond a gauzy veil, and all I'd have to do is step through it to be reunited with them forever, and separated from all who loved me on this side. The idea intrigued and terrified me, comforted and saddened me. I decided not to be in any hurry to go.
An old grammar school chum with whom I'd reconnected on Facebook suddenly died of cancer. A high school friend, also rediscovered through Facebook, sent me a couple of her wigs, having put breast cancer behind her. She recently developed pancreatic cancer, too. Hers was operable. She had to wear wigs again for a while, but now she's better. I try to keep tabs on her. With cancer, life can turn on a dime.
Another friend's brother has been "terminally ill" with cancer for ten years. I think it's taking a toll on his loved ones. People with cancer need to get that word "terminal" out of their heads, refuse to accept it, and keep on living, until we are no longer here. We must not lie around, waiting to die.
I had a biopsy, last week. Next week I'll email the doctor for the results. I don't expect it to be cancer, despite that he said some areas looked abnormal. I expect to be fine. But if I'm not fine, I expect to survive a little more of something... maybe some internal mutilation, or toxic drug therapy. I might refuse those and try something all natural, trusting the body's ability to repair itself.
I don't plan to die. I plan to live. And if I should eventually land in the place where my dad and several other friends and relatives are waiting for me, so be it. But I'm not planning to go any time soon. I have a book to finish, and screenplays to revise, and more books to write, I am too busy living to worry about dying. Everybody dies. We never can know when. We don't make an appointment for it.
I don't think you should worry about dying, either. Instead, figure out what to do while you're living. Get your nails done. Fix your hair. Have your teeth fixed. Sure, you might just be aiding the undertaker in making the corpse more attractive, but you might need those pearly choppers for another decade or several.
If you lose friends to cancer, don't let it depress and frighten you. You'll be sad, of course, and feel the loss deeply. But don't fear that you are next. You have a lot of living to do. And people need your love. They don't need your life insurance and your other assets. They need YOU. Hang around. Don't desert the ones you love. Don't stop fighting for your life. Heaven can wait. I hope to meet you there. But not any time soon. We have work to do.