Malia is a long-time full-time RVer who was diagnosed last spring with terminal lung cancer. She is graciously sharing her journey with us. Read her previous post here.
by Malia Lane, Malia’s Miles Blog
Well, technically, we’re all dying from the moment we are born. How long it takes to become aware of this fact and what we think about it after we know leads to a whole different consciousness.
I was told in May 2018 that the average life expectancy of stage 4 lung cancer I have is about one year. She reminded me that average means half of the subjects died before a year and a half lived a bit longer and we had no idea where I would fit on that spectrum.
In order to qualify for hospice care, they have to be able to say death is expected within six months. My oncologist set me up with that in August because he says they provide invaluable services to someone in my position and it’s not wise to wait till the last minute to contact them. I plan to do a whole post about the amazing care they provide for those that don’t know about it, but that’s for another day.
Here it is, the first week of the New Year 2019 and since time hasn’t stopped, I assume we’re talking roughly March when things would really be looking dire for me. If that timetable holds true, I won’t make it to my 68th birthday on April 30. A bit of a daunting thought, that, and a couple of years less than I always thought. I always figured I’d die around age 70. I don’t know how to explain that, but it was just always a belief I had.
But I’m also always being told that I’m still pretty vibrant (vital signs all good) and there is no expiration date on my forehead, so there’s no way to say for sure. They develop guidelines based on symptoms and how fast and furious they’re coming. So it’s not that I’m giving up all hope, but I don’t see the wisdom on being in denial, either, so I’m taking the steps I need to take to get my practical affairs handled.
So how am I feeling physically? Well, the biggest problem I have right now is the tumors that have escaped the skin covering and are now popping out over the neck. What started off looking like a little pimple now looks like a mushroom monster fever blister that has spread up and out. Besides being disgustingly ugly, it’s quite painful. So far I’ve been able to manage it with Percocet and I’m still supplementing with CBD/THC (cannabis oil) since that helps the pain, also.
They started me on a steroid the other day that they hope will at least delay the spread of the tumor on the outside, and maybe even shrink it some. I just hope at least they have bigger and bigger bandages because it’s quite upsetting to me when I have to look at it.
Besides that, my energy level truly sucks and I am pretty much a basket case in the afternoons and just “take to my bed.” But I’m sleeping pretty well at night for the most part (medicated), and that’s a very big deal for me.
So, how many of us have really taken the time to think about how you would feel to know that you have a raging disease that will take your life before a year is up? I’ve had many thoughts about death during my 67 years on this earth, sometimes welcoming it with unholy wishes for it just to end. Yes, I’ve had those dark, depressing moments. And I’ve had those glorious moments where I wished life would never end.
Just think about what an interesting exercise it would be just for a day to keep focused on the fact that you could die in six months. See how much that changes your perspective.
I do notice things changing in how I interact with people, particularly those I love and have a connection with. I hug people differently; squeeze a little harder and hold on a little longer. I look them in the eyes to emphasize I mean what I say when you say, “I love you.”
When I started posting about the diagnosis, I started hearing the most amazingly wonderful and sweet things from people who either know me personally or feel like they do from reading about my 17 years of traveling as a solo RVer.
I get so touched reading these testimonies of what I’ve meant to them, sometimes I feel like it’s reading a little of my own obituary every day. It’s a little weird, but in reality, it’s one of the biggest blessings I’ve had. It’s so easy to go through our lives being totally oblivious as to how what we do affects others. All of us should be more conscious of how we can uplift each other in simple but heartfelt ways.
So just how do I feel about knowing that I’m dying soon? One thing I don’t feel is cheated that I’m dying too soon. I can’t help but feel grateful that I had all these years of travel when I was young enough to do more serious hiking and other activities that I couldn’t begin to do now. If I had waited till traditional retirement age, then I’d be chewing on a whole lot more resentment and anger at myself than I have now.
Maybe I could have done more, but I did a bunch. I could have seen more, but I’ve seen enough. My main advice remains to follow your dreams while you can and as early as you can. I’ve had 17 years of traveling around this country seeing and doing things I never could have conceived of as a little girl and I can drum up nothing but gratitude for that, even though it wasn’t always easy and there were trade-offs in the process.
And yesterday was truly a momentous day for me. Besides being the official first day of the new year, I handled off my book to Larry, the earth angel who is taking it from here to get it formatted for Kindle and up for sale on Amazon (it’s now available. See below). This after earth angel Jaimie did some editing and whose input was invaluable. There is no way to describe the relief I feel for having completed the writing, or the hope that I have that I will actually be able to hold that book in my hand and see it in print before I die.
Even though I just got through writing my book about fearing less, and that explains better my having no fear of death itself, I do find myself aware of so many things that I’m still afraid of. I still have fear of pain in the dying process.
Yes, I am sad to think of leaving beloved people behind, but I also look forward to being greeted by those on the other side whose loss I have grieved.
The weather here in Southern Oregon has been very dreary and rainy, which doesn’t help lift my spirits. On the days when the sun peeks out, I don’t always have the energy to get out and enjoy it. But I still pray, “It’s a beautiful day on earth, Lord. I’m happy to be here. These sights are beautiful. But I won’t argue with you when it’s time to come to my true home, either. I know how awesome it is to be closer to you, too.”
Don’t let what you can’t do stop you from doing what you can. Wake up, dream, live! It’s a Happy New Year!
Editor’s Note: Next week: Time Running Out for Malia