My grandmother often said "honey, whatever you do, don't get old. It's the pits."
f you asked me five months ago, I would have told you I agreed with my grandmother. Five months ago I was known to complain periodically that I was getting old, especially after a tough work out at the gym. Five months ago I didn't know I had a life threatening disease.
Now, I must say, Grandma, may you rest in peace, I respectfully need to disagree.
Getting old, being old is a blessing. Old means you've had the opportunity to live a long and full life. Old means you've walked through the passages in life you imagined you would when you were younger, the passages I dream of today. Old, even with the creaky bones and the slower pace of life that so many experience, sounds pretty darn good to me.
Don't get me wrong. I have not given up in my battle against this disease. I don't walk around every day thinking that my life will end soon. However, the reality is that with this diagnosis, I do think about my mortality and just how imminent my last days may be. I grieve the possible loss of the hopes and dreams for the future. I consider death in ways I've not thought about it before. At least for me, this is just part of the process. Part of accepting the reality of the situation.
As a consequence of all this, I find myself insanely jealous of old people these days. Elderly couples walking along the beach in front of our condo inevitably turn on the water works. I can't help it. I want that for us. I want that more than I have ever wanted anything in my life.
Old folks struggling to make it through a trip to the grocery store -- a scene that used to make me think grandma was right -- are now a symbol to me of the human spirit. The desire to live, to be independent, to squeeze every last drop out of life here on earth.
Then there was the older couple I shared an infusion room with during my last treatment. He has melanoma. The treatment is working for him. He's had no side effects. They schedule his treatments around their extensive travel schedule. In fact, they are headed to New Zealand for three weeks after the first of year. Rather than having a good natured reaction to overhearing all of this, I found myself filled with self pity and envy. It's ugly, but it's the truth.
Obviously hating on granny isn't a good thing, nor is it socially acceptable. So, I started to ask myself why I am having this reaction to the elderly? This kind of self reflection, while extremely uncomfortable, often reveals things to me about myself that I really ought to understand.
The first thing that has become clear to me is that I am not ready to die. This is fundamentally the source of my jealously. Paradoxically, I am not afraid to die either. I am more like a petulant child who just wants her way. I am basically pounding my fist on the table when I talk to God, asking -- no, actually demanding -- that He give me more time to live the life I've imagined. I think this is driven partly by the human will to live that is deep inside each one of us, which, incidentally, is a beautiful thing. What is less beautiful is the way this desire is manifesting itself in my envy of the elderly!
I have also realized this jealously is connected to my seemingly constant thoughts about the suffering others are experiencing as a result of my having this disease. When I think about the elderly, I think about all the people who love and have loved them throughout their lives. This experience has taught me that being in community, in fact, is one of the best things about being alive. What a gift that their family and friends have been able to watch them grow old. But then my thoughts turn to my own situation. I think about the people in my life, including every member of #TeamSoderlund. I want to see them (you) grow old. I want them to see me grow old. The thought of them suffering makes me cry. I wish could take their suffering away.
It has also become clear that it is this will to live that is keeping me focused, motivated and resolved to continue in this fight, which may (if I am lucky) last a long time. It keeps me in the right place even on those days when I am feeling my worst and can barely get up off the couch. It is part of the glue holding #TeamSoderlund together. Unfortunately it's also making me envious of the elderly. I guess I am going to have to keep working on finding a way to be happy for them for already having what I desire.