I should have died in January. Then in March my number was up...again. My oncologist had tears in her eyes and all my nurses kept walking into the infusion room looking at me like I was already dead. The pity. "Nothing is going to cure this" my doc said. It wasn't news to me. I've been tearing through drugs and treatments like tissues during the climax of Steel Magnolias or Beaches. Take your pick.
Don't get me wrong. This isn't a miracle post. I got them mother fucking tumors all through my bones, dancing around in my liver and now waging a war in my lungs. But unlike most, I get to go out (mostly) on my own terms. I get to decide when I fold my hand and I get to decide where I die, who is there, hell I'm planning the soundtrack for the luncheon after the funeral. Everything from Edith Pilaf and Sinatra to Guns 'n Roses and Kenny Rogers. Oh and of course, my beloved Tay Tay,
In March my liver hurt a lot and I spiked a really high fever. I was admitted to the hospital for one night had a blood transfusion, got some steroids for ten days and started a new chemotherapy. This all came about after that day in March when I was confronted by my oncologist, my nurses and the "angel of death" the palliative care nurse. (She's lovely, but you really don't ever want her to visit.) I'm not naive, I know my days are numbered, but I also know when and where I can buy time. And I pointed out the window, and I said, "I'm not going to die when it looks like this outside. I need green on the trees, I need a few more track meets and a couple of soccer games. I need to lounge on my front porch in the sun, and then...well then."
Here's the kicker. I'm in no pain. Can't feel my liver. Don't need to nap during the day. Most of the past four years of living with metastatic breast cancer has been spent trying to figure out if the cancer is causing my symptoms or if it's the side effects of the drugs. 90% of the time, it's the god damn drugs. And I feel really good on this new drug. But it stole my hair. Now that may seem inconsequential when the drug is working and I feel fine, but it tore me apart. Cause this drug will likely stop working in a matter of weeks, just like all the others.
The first time I shaved my head nearly ten years ago, it was easy. I knew how many rounds of chemo, radiation and surgeries I had scheduled. I knew that my hair was going to grow back. It was easy to be brave when I wasn't really being brave. This time around I tried to salvage the strands. I cried in the shower as chunks of my hair just shed into my hands. My pillow was covered every morning. Hair was constantly found in my food. I knew it was time to shave my head. The majority of the hair on top of my head was gone and then I had these long, long strands down my back. I looked like Gollum from Lord of the Rings. My fearless, loving and compassionate husband shaved my head for me, while I silently cried. I won't live long enough to see my hair fully grow back and that truth was a deep, mental block for me.
I'm going to die at home. I asked my husband and I asked the kids. As I write this, there is a BBC radio host who is dying from bowel cancer. She is leaving her home to die at her parents place. She doesn't want her kids to have a tainted feeling about their home should she have chosen to pass away there. And I know that no matter what my kids say, the manifestation of the their pain may force them to leave our house once I'm gone. She's not wrong. I'm not wrong. There is no right way to die. And there is absolutely no wrong way to die. Death just is.
And we all eventually die. Circle of life, baby. See you on the flip side. I'll be the one with long hair.