My mother had recently received news about five friends and relatives dying within a four-day period. It seemed really stacked up, and then she got a call that her last remaining uncle was going into hospice care. While it would be another couple of days until he died, the early warning essentially brought the total news to six in under a week. Granted, she is “of a certain age” at which it is expected that her peers and associates will be ending this existence at an increased rate, especially those markedly older than herself. It happens. It’s a part of life. And it isn’t talked about enough.
As a culture, death makes us squeamish. It’s hushed up, spoken of mainly with euphemisms and generally avoided for its awkwardness. Worse, it is often treated as an embarrassment. Oh, why did Grandad have to die so…inconveniently? Perhaps he should have just gone on vacation and disappeared… “I’m sorry for your loss,” they all say, pitying you for being unable to arrange a cleaner exit for the dearly departed. But death is messy, sometimes. Death brings hurt, upends the cozy lives of the living, leaves an overwhelming amount of loose ends.
But death is a natural part of life — one that cancer patients often have staring at them right over the proverbial shoulder. In February, I interviewed Michael March about his, as he put it, “Final Journey.” Michael is dying from throat cancer that migrated to his lungs, after eight years of dealing with various cancer issues (including periods of remission). Our conversation ran the gamut, from the lack of education that people have in talking about death to the spiritual comfort some seek during their period of decline. Michael also opened up about the fear of suffering that still remains after having made peace with the idea of dying.
Michael’s Final Journey
Here is the text from a recent Facebook entry that Michael posted a couple of weeks after our interview:
I have to come clean with everyone following my journey and just lay my thoughts on the table. I'm scared. I'm stressed. I'm saddened. I'm frustrated. With the dawn of each new day, I am watching time pass quicker and quicker. However the desire to see the coming dawn becomes less important as I struggle to simply breath in the morning air. The struggle now is to just deal with the issues that keep popping up, while I continue my slow decline. I often ask, to no one in particular, "When will this end?" I never understood how someone could decide enough was enough and tell the doctors they were done with fighting, done with living. How could someone give up living willingly. Isn't being with loved ones enough reason to keep on living, to keep on dealing with the struggles of fighting cancer? With each passing day, I am finding an excuse to keep on fighting and I realize how things have twisted around. At the start of the fight, I didn't need an excuse to get treatment, life was enough to keep fighting for. But lately, life alone is not enough of a reason to want to keep on living at all costs. Which, in and of itself, scares the bejebus out of me. The arc of this, my final cancer journey, has been one that has hit all six walls that surrounds each and every one of us. At every turn, regardless of direction, my frustrations become ever more accute, ever more pronounced, and all too real. What scares me the most, I believe, is this overwhelming feeling of frustration. I fully expected to be frustrated during the time it took to come to grips with, and then actually living through, the dying process. But now I honestly feel as if I have outlived my own expectations, not to mention the expectations of friends and family. That whole feeling of "You're not dead yet?", comes to mind. Yesterday was another day in the chemo lab. Another day on this, my final journey. I hope when my journey is done someone is able to read my posts, and is able to actually learn something from it, even if what that is, is mainly explaining how bad of an idea it was in the first place. I thought my end was going to be quick, but as I write this, it's moving on to month 15. It is starting to feel like a summer rerun. I guess what I am trying to say is I hope I have not bored you, and I do hope this has been useful or at least entertaining. Hopefully no one reading this will ever have to deal with being told you have a terminal illness. But if someone is unlucky enough to have to follow in my footsteps, I hope they are able to either re-read this, or at least remember it. Our own journeys will always be different but also the same. Anyway, I guess this has been my way of saying I have finally reached my limit, I have found the boundary of my will to live and feel and hope everyone following me, will undertand. I have not given up the fight, I have just given up that over the top, at all costs, type of fight. I love every one of you that has followed me during the past 15 months, and I will forever feel blessed to have had such a gathering of family and friends. Alone I would have given up before the fight even started. Thank you all for everything you have given me over the last 15 months. You have given me 15 more months of life that have been well spent. I am taking a 4 week break from chemo. Hopefully the cancer stays quiet. I just can no longer take the pain. I need time off to recover or peacefully pass away. With love and thanks, Mike
Below are four excerpts from our interview, followed by a link to see the whole conversation.
For more of this interview, visit my page on Patreon, where The Deep Breath is hosted.
Click this link for the Complete Michael March Interview.
The full interview is “feature-length,” so be prepared to sit back with some popcorn and settle in…or break it up into digestible nuggets as you see fit. What it lacks in action sequences, it makes up for with humor and insight. Enjoy!
Has one of your loved ones died from lung cancer?
If you are among those who has lost a family member to lung cancer, please consider reading this post from another cancer-related blog:
There is much good that can come out of archived tumor tissue if it is released to researchers. This can be a wonderful way to honor the lives of patients who died as the result of their cancers. But releasing that tissue for medical research is not automatic — please read that post to learn more.
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