OPTION 1 – “There’s a high probability that I have less than six months to live. I have been told by oncologist to stop working. I won’t be teaching Spring quarter. But today I’m feeling great. How are you?”
OPTION 2 – “Great! How are you?” (Say no more and ignore nervous quizzical look on inquirer’s face)
OPTION 3 – “I’m doing really well today, how about you? But if you’re interested in how my disease is progressing, please feel free to read my blog at http://www.thecolorofhopeblog.com “ (I hand them a card.)
There’s a superstitious part of me that fears continually repeating “there’s a high probability that I have less than six months to live. I have been told by oncologist to stop working.” It’s as if the chant of the possibility can make it a reality.
But I also don’t like not telling people what they want to know. I hate that uncomfortable silence people settle into when they don’t know how to act or even feel around me. Knowing how I am helps them know how they can be. It helps me connect.
My blog helps a lot. It clears away about 90% of the inquiries and helps people know where I am. I want people to know where I am. I want people interact with me, to feel comfortable asking me genuine questions.
The entire experience continues to be quite funny in some ways and surreal in others. I like sharing.
There’s really only one thing that bugs me.
When I was diagnosed with cancer the first time, in 2008, I became close to a woman with stage IV ovarian cancer. I remember being mystified by how long she chose to work. I thought *I* would take time off. *I* would want to focus more on my family and kids. I would travel. I would write. I would. I would. I would.
I was obnoxious. And unless you really do have a less than 6-months to live prognosis or have had one at some point in your life, I don’t want to hear about what you would do. I don’t care if you’re a hospice volunteer and walk people through their deaths on a daily basis, you don’t know what you would do if you were me. You don’t know what you would do if this were happening to you.
But now I do know.
And it’s rather surprising. I like just being. I like just living. I like eating and swimming and cuddling. I like thinking and dreaming. I like binge watching TV and writing letters by hand.
Working was wonderful and being with my students still gives me a burst of energy every single day. But when a treatment or diagnosis change comes along, it becomes an incredible distraction. So when I’m “off work” and hanging with my best friend, I go swimming, I go shopping, I read, I go out to eat, I talk and I laugh.
But when I’m home, I sit in front of a screen “working on grading” and don’t grade.
I have always been able to waste a lot of time in front of a screen not grading.
Now wasting time online while not grading for work has become an unhealthy addiction. And with the possibility of extreme health or treatment changes in the near future, it’s time to stop.
My first response at really stopping work was happiness. I was imagining the freedom from obligations. The freedom to sleep, exercise, eat, love and reflect at will, without the undone avoided work hanging over my head.
But the next day I was horrified. There’s a reason I’m not a stay-at-home mom. I hate housework. I hate the constant micro-interruptions of being everybody’s problem solver. I don’t like cooking. I don’t like spending all of my time driving kids around (but I like it sometimes).
That stuff’s not getting done very well right now because, well, neither I nor Francois really like it. So we get involved with things that take us out of the house. We eat a lot of take out and microwaved food. We travel.
I am not a stay-at-home mom. I am a dying mom. I value and respect the work done by stay-at-home moms. They are nutritionists, project managers, cooks, counselors, coaches and coordinators. This kind of tracking and maintenance requires a tenacity and diligence that does not come easy for me. It wears me out. So the work done by stay-at-home moms will continue to go undone at our house.
I need to hire a housekeeper or train my kids better before I stop working.
And that, my friend, is the biggest thing on my mind today. Not death. Not mortality. Not the meaning of life.
It’s all about how often the carpets are going to get vacuumed.