She Chose The Road Less Travelled…But It Killed Her

22 Oct

She had good reason to leave. The chemo was making her tired and she felt listless. Hair was falling out in  patches. Her eyebrows were starting to thin, making her look a bit like someone from another species. Feeling  that alien in one’s own body eventually takes it’s toll.

It was strange that the process to be cured from cancer was the thing that was zapping away any sense of herself that had just been brought into  perspective.

She assumed, wrongly of course, that she could just skip the last few months of treatment and take a break. Everyone needs a break. Especially from cancer. The only problem is that if you avoid getting into the ring to actually fight, you’ll never know what is on the other side of that fight.

She chose. For worse, but she chose. Instead of toxic chemicals surging through her body, the wind was in her hair and she was out on the open road swallowing bugs as the RV coursed through the desert. Rather than smell the familiar aroma of freshly peeled band-aids and recently used IV bags, she was breathing in blue spruce pines and dewy meadows. It was almost winter now so the crisp, cold air blew upon her face as she hung her head out the window, lapping up the wind. She felt alive. It was the first time since the word “cancer” was spoken that she really felt that. It seemed okay to take this trip. Granted, the chemo was not complete. Her treatment was not quite finished. She would go back to it, she thought.

She would just take a breath and feel the world around her first.

If I were the woman and I chose to leave, I'd go here.

Once she realized that she might miss out on certain things like seeing a bear in Yellowstone Park or never making it to Disney World even once, she realized she had to go.

Time was not a promise any more. It left her cold. To think of all that was undone. She had never ridden a city bus. Or gone to Times Square. She hadn’t caught a fish. Or played Bridge with someone in an old folks home. So much to see and do. Why waste time healing when she could heal later? Why not heal in a different way first?

Was she avoiding? Yes. Out of fear? She didn’t think so. It was out of wanting to live that she risked dying. But eventually she did die. After returning from her trip–the greatest trip of her life–she came back to realize that the cancer had spread. While she was swimming with dolphins and skiing a double black diamond trail, her body betrayed her. Her heart was feeling free but her cells were breaking down. They deceived her in the end.

The end was quick. It came two weeks after her adventure. Her friends shook their heads in disbelief. They did not understand. Did she honestly think she could run away from cancer? Did she think it had a “pause” button? Maybe she did. She could have been living in a total state of denial. But she would say, “At least I was living.”

Or I'd go back here again. Sequoia National Park.

I heard about her story at a memorial service for someone else. Her scenario is real, I just colored in the details. I go back and forth when I think of her. Part of me thinks she should have stayed and gotten the treatment. Part of me doesn’t get why she would leave when she was so close to finishing well. She could have lived a long and hopefully happy life. She could have died anyways, even with the treatment. Maybe she didn’t want to risk death when she hadn’t really lived. I think I’m okay with her decision. I don’t know that I would have made it but I understand why.

Had she stayed and fought, she might have soon forgotten the gift of life that she had received from her disease. She had an urgency that we undiagnosed take for granted. We live our humdrum lives thinking we have all the time in the world. She packed into a few months what it might have taken us years to get around to if we weren’t too busy “living our lives.” I feel a sense of urgency now and I don’t even have cancer. I don’t want a disease or a diagnosis to be what propels me to actually live my life. She didn’t have that choice. Cancer was her catalyst. It doesn’t have to be mine.

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4 Responses to “She Chose The Road Less Travelled…But It Killed Her”

  1. Kevin October 23, 2010 at 12:12 am #

    This was wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

  2. purpleambrosia October 23, 2010 at 9:38 am #

    Thanks, Kevin!!! Glad you liked it. 🙂

  3. Jenny October 24, 2010 at 1:02 pm #

    I can’t believe you wrote that in the time we were at the coffee shop! I’m impressed. You are not only a very talented write, you are fast! I’m jealous, that would have taken me 10 times as long to finish. Let’s meet up again soon — we had a productive night.

    • purpleambrosia October 24, 2010 at 10:24 pm #

      Agreed! It was productive! Thanks for your nice feedback! More blogs coming soon.

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