The Diminishing Return of Hope: Part 2/3
The Diminishing Return of Hope — Part II
Dan Goldman was a great friend. These passages are taken from our conversation every Wednesday in 2014 in which I would sit with him from 2–3 pm. He was one of the first users of Cancerlife and I am blessed to have known him.
Hi my name is Dan Goldman and I plan to die. It’s been a year since I stopped my proton therapy for a brain tumor that has sadly been growing very slowly over the last year. As if trapped in a submarine at the bottom of the ocean, with a small drip drip drip leak that is slowly filling up…the wait is its own form of torture. I have spent the last year of my life alone in my apartment. I have no one in my life. I never have, besides my parents and some great friends. It’s not enough though. We all need something that keeps us going especially with cancer. Your kids, your husband or wife…..someone special. Seeing a grandchild graduate high school…. something important. Without that “something” life becomes meaningless. I have an amazing family who have been there for me for the last 30 years since I was first diagnosed when I was 13. I am luckily enough that my brother has brought me close to his children on family events and vacations. He may never know how important that has been to me. This past year I saw my niece Soffi at her Bartizan. It was the one of my last “goals”.
Alone day in and day out with death on my mind is not something I wish on anyone. The thing that gets you is people who “say they understand” when they really have no idea what they're talking about. Text messages like “hang in there” and “your strong” become insults. I resent them. So I don’t speak with other people much. They only people who understand are other patients and Its been hard over the years to find someone I can relate to. I was luckily enough to connect with a couple people on cancerlife.com, a new social network that I have been proud to help design and be a part of. If your going through cancer care regardless of age you have to get online and find other like you. There are a few out there. The emotional support alone is worth it. Friends and family can only help you so much.
One of the proudest moments this year was having a Living Tribute Party. I hate the word Funeral. I want to thank Charlie Coltman (Founder of Cancerlife.com) for suggesting it. I had my best friend from Colorado , kids from Cancer Camp (I was counselor), So many people who heard about it came to the party. Some of them I hadn’t seen in 20 years. People spoke about their experiences with me and I was deeply touched by everyone’s words. I am reminded by the movie It’s a wonderful life at the end when everyone comes the Bailey House with Money to show their support. We really don’t know how we impact others. It’s sad that we don’t understand this. I was deeply touched by one of my kids at camp who had bad cerebral paulsey. She spoke in a 5-page letter how I treated her and told her when she was 12, that I was one that told her that “your disease does not define you and that you shouldn’t associate yourself with anyone who makes you feel that way”. It was those simple words that helped her through her teenage years and feel normal.
I have had a good life considering the circumstances. It was that party that helped me see that. But now it's time to die because the tumor is closer and closer to impacting my brain function. The headaches are excruciating. The paralysis is making it hard for me to walk. I have no energy to talk or go out. I’m petrified that the tumor will make me a vegetable and physical and Financial burden to my parents. The doctors tell me I could wake up one day and not be able to move. I hear the tick tick tick of the bomb inside my head but I don’t know when its going to go off. In 10 minutes or 10 months……that’s pretty much what my doctors tell me. Soon….tick tick tick. My name is Dan Goldman and I plan to die.
The Diminishing Return of Hope — part III
Hi, My name is Dan Goldman and I am dead. After battling brain cancer for 30 years and ending my treatment a year ago, I have decided that the tick tick, tick of a slow growing tumor is too much for me. Being alone in my apartment, unable to even watch TV. I can't concentrate, like an Alzheimer patient…..things slip out of my mind. I have been waiting for the last year not knowing when the disease will destroy my body permenantly. . The doctors say I could wake up one day not being able to move, total or partial paralysis or unable to speak. Basic bodily functions become more and more difficult every day. I am alone besides a couple friends and a hospice Rabbi that I see once a week. Death is on my mind all day long. The fear of waking up one day being a burden to my family. I can’t let that happen. Tick tick tick.
Suicide is now my only hope to end the torture. I have said everything I need to say. I have written cards to all my family members. I have my last Mother’s Day card ready to be mailed. I have videos goodbye made to the brothers children trying to provide some advice as they go through their lives knowing that it’s probably more for me than them. I had my Living Tribute Party. One of the most rewarding days of my life to hear how many people have been impacted by me.
But how do I kill myself? Do I jump off my apartment balcony? What if it’s not high enough? What if I live and end up a vegetable anyway. My doctors cant help me and I cannot afford to go to Switzerland and can't afford move to Oregon and get residency. I don’t have the time. Tick tick tick….
I don’t have access to the medications I need. I have tried to save up my pain medication. But how much is enough. 20, 30 , 30, 40, Ambien? What if it doesn't work? Will they put me on suicide watch? What will happen? Who will help me die?
Our society needs a solution for patients like me. Whether in extreme pain or knowing that we would be a financial and emotional burden to our families, people should have right to end their lives. Our nation was built from the foundation of the separation of Church and State. Each of us faces our maker alone. The reality is that regardless of the laws, patients will take matters into their own hands anyway. Do we want people jumping off buildings, shooting themselves, Carbon Dioxide poisoning, overdose, with potential collateral damage. Do we want this to be “underground”?
I believe that medical suicide will be like the abortion was in 40s and 50’s with people traveling across state lines to “go to someone who fixes these things”. Do we want to return to the days of coat hangers in back allies? If we do not change our laws to allow physicians to prescribe mercy medications I believe patients will end up turning to drug dealers to get the “death meds” from the black market. If we know anything about the black market we know that demand creates its own supply.
I have thought about and explored all of these options. I even took 60 Ambien 2 months ago. I didn’t even fall asleep. I thought about going down to North Philly and asking heroin dealers to “Overdose me”. Would you want a family member to face these choices? My family understands but I can not disclose the solution I found, I was able to take my own life. My name is Dan Goldman and I am dead.