In late September 2021 I learned that I had advanced ovarian cancer. Just prior to the diagnosis, I had taken early retirement and completed a training program to start a career as a massage therapist. Ironically, I was planning to specialize in oncology massage. I was seeking work that would have a direct and meaningful connection with people, work that would require me to use my body as much as my mind and heart.
I am doing this now. I am finding my way through my destiny, which includes a diagnosis and treatment and a life that continues to unfold miraculously. Before, I would contemplate mortality and imagine the circumstances of my death with the emotional distance that accompanies speculation. Now that my circumstances have included a diagnosis with grim statistics about 5 year survival rates, emotional distance will often contract into unfiltered fear, sadness, and grief. And then. I notice I’m still alive. My body is healthy in all ways, apart from the history of, and possible recurrence of, cancer. I am living now. That is what matters. I am walking forward in total darkness, as everyone is, not knowing when or how I will die. I will die. I am alive now. So that is the only way to keep walking this path. I am finding my way through this precious life. I do not need to look out for or find my way toward death. It is always waiting at the end of the path. I am not there yet. So today I keep walking.
I’ve been keeping this blog for a year, and life is still miraculously unfolding. After a summer of long walks in nature, long road trip to visit a dearest friend, precious time with my mom, glorious hours binge-watching videos and binge-eating whatever satisfied my cravings, working out and strengthening my body, I am now on my path to my death. I see now that ovarian cancer was never a detour. I was on my life path all along and that would be true even if the cancer had not recurred. The terror that gripped me when I was first diagnosed is absent now. It has no place in these precious remaining days. My last post will indeed be my last. And I offer it because more than anything in my life, I have wanted to be seen and understood for who I truly am. And I’ve wanted anyone who shares a similar yearning to know I am here, I’m like you. I’ve wanted to live in the truth of being a human creature, so much more than a gendered, racialized, politicized, class-based version of a person, even though I have spent much of my time and energy pushing for equity and inclusion, the absence of which is starkly revealed by the disparities in life circumstances, health, and status defined by such identities.
I am spending these final days, however many there may be, fully inhabiting my humanity. Any sense of shame or embarrassment or need to “show up” as a public version of my deepest self is falling away. I don’t have enough energy to stand or sit upright for very long. I can’t pretend anything or accommodate any expectation. The price of this is resting in the soft belly of fear of being completely vulnerable and bearing the sorrow of losing what I wanted so fiercely. The reward is being held by the love of people, dear friends, family, neighbors, and strangers who have prayed and shared their hopes for my successful treatment, and now share their sadness upon learning of the deadly recurrence. I am cared for and grateful to be pain-free with no medication. All bloating and nausea is manageable with a PEG tube. My carers have additional support through hospice.
The whole of my life is a small, small, small moment. Such a blessing.