Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Done Living

With this picture up on my desktop, I received a quote from a church friend: “I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That is what the scar makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived.” ― Chris Cleave, Little Bee

I echo that when reflecting on both by emotional and physical scars. Recently, as I was organizing some old pictures and music and writing... reflecting on the times I wrote more and took more pictures and downloaded more music and ran better are when emotions are heaviest both positively and negatively... trying to hold onto hope that what messed with me the most emotionally were the positive ones. It was when people, moments where perhaps productively, perhaps futilely since in some of those scenarios, it all went wrong but still places where I felt fondly at home. Those have all been ways I try to live with the scars, to overcome them to accept them to realize that they are bigger than me and that I am bigger than them simultaneously. Just for memories sake, I even found old pictures of me with long hair and another completely bald long before cancer or scars were present... There's probably no one who would stick around and love me for too long with either of those and maybe that's why I've learned to keep my hair at its current style (I grew it out shortly after the surgery trying to hide the scar and actually considered having it removed not just digitally but covered up with cosmetic surgery. I am grateful I didn't. )

For a good part, the majority of this journey I've felt homeless, wondering if me with the scar will ever find a place or person that while yes, there's cancer but where I don't feel like an alien. A place where when I'm there I don't feel isolated and alone, where I feel... I don't quite know what the right words are, maybe comfort, relief, happiness, hope, home...where it's a good place to be. That's not the constant feeling... if you read this blog you'd probably find the phrase "one day" used a lot and it's probably written the most on those days I feel the closest or the furthest from feeling home again. 

There's been a lady who has been featured a lot recently. People have sent it directly to me and it's popped up on various social media. She's easy to google so I'll let you do so if you want. But she's 29 and got diagnosed with the exact same cancer I have but it progressed faster than mine has and she moved to Oregon to utilize/take advantage/whatever you believe is the correct verbiage of the "death with dignity act". She's going to legally take her life there and has even chosen a date based on a few things including her significant other's birthday of when she will go out, surrounded by him and other family members with as they describe dignity and peace. Euthanasia some call it; breaking down the Greek translates it to "good death." I imagine there's a few individuals in history that I would say had a good death that but in my book they are the minority. But there are so many more I could point to had a good, a great life.  

Whether or not that should be legal or is moral under God's eyes I'll let better minds than mine debate. I've announced exactly the way I'm going out to the Grand Canyon in various places. There is a box I've prepared for that if and when statistics play their role and the box is updated when appropriate. There has only been one time I've second guessed it or felt that I would defy the odds, this despite multiple friends having tried to talk me out of that Grand Canyon trip. Even with my damaged mind, it's tough for me to choose whether to trust the instinct to follow thoughts or feelings if they don't quite line up. The lady making news has made it clear that she is just trying to avoid pain and wants to go surrounded by people she loves. I'm not afraid of pain, mine is motivated by having watched people whose brain is gone be dying in a room where they are a stranger in a room where everyone is a stranger to them. (It's also because end of life care tends to be pricey and well I'm not leaving my daughter with less money to be a living ghost). There have been comments and criticisms and defenses of her choices in regards to what God would think, whether or not it should be legal, whether or not it's suicide. I'll avoid those topics and leave that for someone with a better frame of mind than I have about it all. But the one thought I've had in comparing my plans and hers of doing it in her own bed surrounded by people and my plan of going to the Grand Canyon to die... I think it's plenty debatable which of the two is more self centered and less caring to the people who you loved while you lived. Is dying in front of them or away from them more wrapped up in one's self? 

But throughout this often homeless feeling journey, I've tried to focus much more on the moments of now rather than when the leaving will occur. While it was a horrible song in my  book , there was a break up song I heard on the radio of someone who left their significant other. The line that caught my ear was, "I'm leaving you for the moment;" the cleverness of the lyrics being not that she was leaving him for a moment but just walking out of the relationship to get to experience more moments on her own terms period.

But after last week when I'd had the worst run in over two year, I did something I've never done before. I created a playlist for a training run. It was mostly songs to remind me of the places, the people that had felt like home. It was an out and back course so my teammates had to put up with a lot of singing. The song I played the most on that run was what my hope is for me and for anyone dying which is all of us are, whenever or however our time comes... it's called done living ( These lyrics have messed with me quite a bit:

Well, I spent the whole night fighting
Fighting with some ghost
And when the break of morning found me
I'd both won and lost

You see the question isn't are you going to suffer any more
But what will it have meant when you are through?
The question isn't are you going to die, you're going to die
But will you be done living when you do?

Yes, I spent the whole day running
Trying to catch the sun
But when the darkness overtook me
All my running had made me strong

So run till you cannot take a single step in strength
Then crawl on your hands and knees, till your hands and knees they ache
And when you cannot crawl

It will be me you call to carry you back home again.

You see the question isn't are you going to suffer any more
But what will it have meant when you are through?
The question isn't are you going to die, you're going to die
But will you be done living when you do?

As I prepare for various races I know that running has made me strong. Still, I hope when the time comes that I have ran and cannot crawl that it will be clear in my phone who I could call to carry me home. I hope I keep appreciating the scar and keeping it in perspective. And I hope that when it comes time for me to die, that I'll be done living when I do. 


  1. WOW!!! I had been reading your blogs for about 2 years and i must say this is one of the most touching and inspiring messages i have read. Your outlook has always been positive. I know of the lady in which you speak and as you say, let God decide. I just pray for her eternal salvation. God bless and keep the faith. Your truly are an inspiration to all.

  2. I think everyone wants to find that place of comfort/relief/happiness. That person who we can be around and not feel alone....maybe it's not even a person, maybe we are searching for a state of mind that makes us feel that way....I think everyone struggles with that need/want.
    See you aren't as alone as you think :)