I turn 25 today. 25. Wow. You know, I hardly made it this far.
I never thought that getting to age 25 would end up being a struggle. I guess I never really considered it, but if I had, I suppose I would have imagined my 20s sailing by without much of an effort.
You don’t think about this kind of stuff before it actually happens to you, right? And I think it should be like that. Don’t worry about cancer. If there’s any advice I’d feel confident giving, it’d be that: just don’t worry about it.
Don’t worry about tumors, or needles, or doctor’s bills, or if you’d be brave enough, or strong enough. If you spend any of your life worrying about what awful thing might happen to you, you’ll miss all the things that do happen.
We live in a forward thinking society, surely. It’s necessary to plan ahead, especially financially and vocationally. If you don’t plan a future, you might not have one when you get there.
Nevertheless, I think about it like hiking. I notice a funny thing when I’m hiking. I’m always falling into the creek. No, I’m kidding. What I notice is the dilemma of hiking – that you are surrounded by beauty, but if you look up long enough to appreciate it – you’ll trip on a rock, break your leg, run out of food and die a lonely death – isolated in this stupid forest, on this stupid mountain, with these stupid birds…circling above…who look hungry…
Anyway, you get the point.
It seems like life is like that sometimes, too. If I stop long enough to appreciate how my life is going, I inevitable end up feeling like there is something more important that I should be doing.
And the truth is that there probably is something more important that I should be doing, but that’s not the point. The point is that hiking isn’t just about walking.
And while I’m here, I have more to say.
Yes, I beat cancer. I totally beat cancer. And I hope that that gives others hope – but (and this will sound funny) – not too much hope.
We’re all gonna die. There’s something really valuable in realizing how short life is, and how fragile it all is. There’s something good about feeling life desperately flash by. There’s an part that I like about feeling like you should finally get off your ass and do something with yourself, or for others, before you die.
And there’s danger of losing that idea if we cure all the diseases, and heal all the sick, and put death back into storage with all the other alarming thoughts we don’t want to think about.
Not that I’m saying we shouldn’t heal all the sick and cure all the dying, that’s not the point. The point is that I’m still going to die.
Wow. After all this writing about cancer, it still feels awkward to write about death. Kicking the bucket. Sleeping the big sleep. Tumbling down the hill. (I made that one up.) It feels like I’m being rude, or doing something I’m not supposed to. It feels like people are going to be mad at me for talking about it.
That’s how little we talk about it these days.
Not that long ago, death used to be a way of life, strange as that sounds. People were dying all the time. The infant mortality rate was astounding. People died of plagues, and worldwide wars, and simple illnesses like the flu. I looked it up – life expectancy 100 years ago was 49. That means a hundred years ago, I’d have been considered middle-aged by now.
But we’ve got medicine for everything now. Even cancer can be beaten. Infant mortality has been nearly forgotten about in the West. We understand nearly all the little bugs and critters that want to kill us, and we know how to avoid them, or what to do when we can’t.
Medical science is an entire industry funded by the human instinct for self-preservation. And just look at how much money we’re willing to spend!
It’s so much easier to stay alive these days, that one might forget entirely about death altogether. The ticking second hand of a clock means less today than it used to. Why drive out and watch the sunset? There’ll just be another one tomorrow.
No! Don’t have too much hope! Don’t drown yourself in hope and forget about how desperate your situation really is! You’re not going to make it! Do something now!
And that’s really how I feel about this journal of my disease. I hope I don’t inspire you too much. I hope I don’t bring anybody the false illusion that we are anything other than a fragile organism. I don’t want anybody to read this and then put off something they’ve been meaning to do. Like living. Or loving. Or dying.
Happy birthday to me. I’m 25. I’m probably going to live for quite a while longer. I can’t wait to do something with this extra time that I’ve been gifted. I have love for all of you, for sharing this time with me. That’s a start.