Here Are the Positive Aspects of Discovering You Are Dying

I’m Dying…

We begin to die the second we are born…

But I’m not talking about that kind of dying. I’m talking about having the Oncologist come in after your labs and quarterly CT scan and saying:

“Well, the results are not what we were hoping for…”

That’s oncologist speak for “your cancer has returned”.

To be crystal clear I’m not trying for “morbid”.

Just real.

Not trying for sympathy either. Because despite my diagnosis, and prognosis, I feel blessed. At peace. Fulfilled. And pretty damned good actually! In fact, my Oncologist said I was really healthy!

I feel really healthy…

A Bit of Background

A little over 3 years ago I was diagnosed with Colon Cancer. Stage IV.

The Big C.

The motherfucker metastasized and spread to my liver. And lungs. Made a home in my body.

How dare he…

That’s what Stage IV means by the way. Metastasis. Those are words you don’t want to hear. Ever.

This could all have been avoided. I could have avoided it. I was stupid.

A simple diagnostic procedure (a colonoscopy) would have determined I had an issue before it became serious. But that’s water under a rarely crossed bridge.

Important Public Service Announcement: Everyone should be screened for colorectal cancer. Here are the American Cancer Society Guidelines.

ACS Colorectal Cancer Screening Guidelines

I know its not a fun topic folks, but trust me, the alternative is WAY less fun. And it may kill you.

Like it is killing me…

Screening doesn’t necessarily mean a colonoscopy either. But even if it ends up that you need one, it’s not that bad. At all. I speak from experience. I’ve had several.

Learning to Deal With It

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I’m not so self centered and egotistical that I believe I have the market cornered on self-pity and malady. I’m not all “woe is me” and everything.

I do admit to asking myself “why me?” right after the Doc told me. For about 57 milliseconds. Then I asked, out loud this time, “OK. So what’s the plan?”

I don’t have time for self-pity or depression. Nor do I have time to fritter away on unproductive and ineffective activities.

Nope. I’m into action and effectiveness.

So here’s what I’m doing.

It may not be your particular cup of tea. Or what will work for you. So keep the things you think will work. Or throw away the whole thing and come up with your own list. That’s fine. But share it with us, ok?

Here’s My List…

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  • Stay Positive — I can’t stress enough how important this one is. I don’t have empirical evidence to show you, but every Doc I talk to says this is important. Mind over matter. And I think that asshole Cancer guy can sense when you are weak, down and negative. And then he goes to town. So stay positive.
  • Do All YOU Can — that means, listen to the experts. Follow the established protocols. Take the meds. Do the treatments. And surgery if it’s called for. And if you feel strongly about homeopathic cures, then do those too. Just check with your doctor and don’t do anything crazy. Like Steve Jobs did and wait for months and months to have surgery that could have saved or prolonged his life.
  • Get Good Doctors — and a second opinion as well. It’s your life. Do your research. Talk to people. Consult with your Primary Care Physician. Just find someone who has dealt with whatever you have like a gazillian times.
  • Pray. A Lot — to God or to your higher power. Don’t believe in either? Meditate. Spend time quieting the world around you, stilling your mind, and breathe.

How I Am Making My Peace

I’m at Peace…

However much time I have left, I am going to make the most of that time. It’s really quite simple. Here’s what I think we should all do, faced with similar circumstances. Not much different from what we should normally do either.

  • Consider Your Legacy
    Decide what want to be remembered for. And not just for what you did, but more importantly, for who you were.
  • Help Your Family Prepare
    For when you will no longer be around. Yes, financially. But also think about the things you personally do, that someone else wil now have to do. Orient them. Teach them. Leave written instructions and documentation. Provide them the access and wherewithal to do what you do for them. So they can be self sufficient.
  • Continue to Contribute
    To the world and to people around you. Look for opportunities to help, and to do good.
  • Pick Your Activities Wisely
    Don’t waste time on frivolous things. Cut down on Social Media, and on petty insignificant things. Make what you spend your time on count for something. Don’t Major in Minor things
  • Write — a lot. Leave behind a body of work for people to read and enjoy, and to remember you by.
  • Love — unconditionally. Be remembered fondly for loving.

The Doc, Dr. Daniel Halperin, a brilliant Clinical Oncologist and Professor at the University of Texas, said he doesn’t know how much time I have. I knew he would say that when I asked him. He’s been treating me for over three years now. He’s a straight shooter and he knows I am too. And that I appreciate his no bullshit approach.

He said, “this is a marathon, not a sprint.”

We are not going to measure my time in decades, but it’s not going to be in weeks or months either.

He said “2, 3, 5, 9? We will wait and see…”. Seems my friend Mr. C is an indolent sonofabitch.

Indolent means wanting to avoid activity or exertion; lazy…

So I’m not about to panic. Mr. C can be as lazy as he wants. We are going to attack him with more chemo in an effort to shrink his sorry ass. It worked before. I’m convinced it will work again.

MD Anderson
I’m a fighter. I don’t give up easily…

I rebuilt my life after a Federal prison sentence. And I fought off the Big C almost 4 years ago with Chemo, surgery, radiation, and a positive outlook.

I’m going to go about this exactly the same way.

I Have -

  • Faith — Ya gotta have Faith that you will persevere. Cause if you don’t, then what’s the use????? You’re just going through the motions. Don’t you dare do that!
  • Hope — this goes hand in hand with Faith. If you’ve done all you can, then have hope that you will prevail.
  • A Plan — My Surgical Oncologist, the brilliant Dr. Thomas Aloia once said, “Hope is not a Plan. But with a Plan comes Hope…”. Exactly Doc. Right on.
  • Great Docs at MD Anderson Cancer Center — a world class place to fight this disease. Find THE place to fight. That’s the battleground. The ring. Get in and fight with those that will help you fight.
  • A Loving Family and Loyal Friends — this makes a HUGE difference. To have people in your corner pulling for you. As Paul McCartney once said, “Do me a favor. Open the door. And let ’em in.”
  • And God — He is in my corner too. And in whatever shape and form you define Him or Her, is in yours as well.
What more could a person want?

Write to me at henry@fiallo.com if you want to talk about dealing with your own personal demon. We can bounce strategies off each other…