So… here we go again. Another journey – but this time it’s not one of our choosing. The night before we were to embark on our retirement tour back in August, I received the call from Dr. Ross, giving me the diagnosis of colon cancer.
We missed the first month of our trip, going for tests, waiting and wondering and asking what and why. Because surgery wait time is typically about six weeks, after some begging and pleading (maybe just a touch of whining) we did get to go away for two months.
Two months, ten countries, and about 25 different cities, towns or camps. It was an adventure, but now the real journey begins.
Day 1 –
We were at the hospital by 6:30 a.m. After having only clear fluids for 24 hours the day before and nothing since midnight, my stomach was a little upset. Just MAYBE a little stress contributed to it. What do you think? ??
We were quickly greeted by a great nurse who tried to make me as comfortable as possible. I got into my fancy hospital outfit and tried to relax as much as I could. Shawn, as always, was by my side, supporting and calming me, even though I’m sure he was just as nervous (okay… maybe not QUITE as nervous).
We filled in forms, answered questions, asked questions and talked about my Living Will. A living will is a document that lays out what you want to occur if something drastic happens and you, your family and your physician have to make life or death decisions.
Because of fairly recent deaths in our families (my dad and mom, and Shawn’s aunt) and his mom’s struggles with cancer, we had experienced times when we had to be part of those decisions. We had talked about it with our families and with each other. There were four main options:
- Do everything possible to maintain life regardless of what that means.
- Do everything possible to maintain life IF the condition is reversible. After a certain amount of time, discussion would move to the next stage – easing into death.
- Do what needs to be done to maintain comfort and be pain-free when dying.
- No interference at all. No IVs, no CPR, no feeding tubes.
It was tough filling the living will out. It brought back painful memories, “what ifs”, regrets, sadness and just a few tears. I don’t think there’s anyone who wants to contemplate that their end could be near or to think a different decision might have been a better one.
I initialled option 2 – do everything possible to maintain life IF the condition is reversible. I want to live, but I want to have a good QUALITY of life. I don’t want to be a burden to my family, and I don’t want to just exist – laying on a bed, kept alive by feeding tubes, oxygen, and machines.
That was the whole idea of this retirement tour – to LIVE… not just to exist by blindly getting up in the morning, going to our jobs, coming home and falling asleep on the couch, before starting all over the next morning. We want to find joy and excitement and wonder. I know we still have to deal with all of the mundane parts of living. We can’t afford NOT to work. We still have commitments to fulfill and HOPEFULLY, many years ahead of us, BUT… we want to make sure we value each minute we have right NOW, and treasure the moment in which we are, right NOW.
Taking the two months to travel, meeting amazing people along the way, and then starting this new journey with cancer has confirmed that for us.
Though it may be a dark and stormy road ahead of us, we know we have each other and that we are strong.
Let the journey begin!