Question: Dear Luise: I was diagnosed with metastasized, ovarian cancer four months ago. I’m 86. There was no sign that anything was wrong until I recently felt some lumps to the left of my middle. My doctor thought they were fatty tumors. They increased in size and he removed them in office surgery, doing a biopsy only because it was required. The rest, as they say, is history. It is inoperable and I have two years, at best. I’ve been on weekly chemo for three months. It’s been bearable. Sometimes I feel like my old self and think this is all a big mistake and sometimes I feel terrible and just want it to be over. I have no family and no religious affiliation. I do believe in God, however. Do you have any suggestions? I read you website regularly and find your advice both interesting and comforting. Never thought I would be sending you a question, but what do we know? Thanks, M.
Answer: Dear M.: Our belief systems seem to be the best point of reference when we are contemplating death. Some believe that when it’s over, it’s over and others believe that another great adventure follows this one. Beyond that…I suppose there are those who fear the former and hope for the later as well as those who slip back and forth between the two concepts.
It’s never too late to do some research. Have you read Kubler-Ross? Her groundbreaking treatise on the subject is a great place to start. The Tibetan Book on Living and Dying is one I’d also recommend. If you were going to go on an extended trip, you would probably read up on your intended destination, right?
Not having any family can be a bummer but some people, who are in unfortunate circumstances, might tell you it could be seen as a blessing. Whatever it is, you can’t change it, biologically. However, you can look about you to see where a confidant might surface. Do you have a friend you can call, even daily if need be, who will listen to you and who will create the space for you to be however you are at any given moment?
You have already expressed experiencing an emotional roller coaster. Simply put…you need to be consistently and gently heard. That’s what support groups do, as well. Others in the same or similar circumstances listen, share and offer the caring that can lessen isolation and acute or chronic loneliness. Find a sounding board, whether near and dear or professional, and use it to your best advantage.
Ask your doctor for a list of support resources. Be proactive. That’s what I would call your writing to me. It’s an act of reaching out and being open to finding ways to face and get through what lies ahead with as much grace and peace as possible. Blessings, Luise