Quality of Life

October 10, 2005

With the uncertainty surrounding Michele's health this weekend, with a full body bone scan scheduled for tomorrow, we have been thinking and talking a lot about quality of life this weekend. Both Michele and I place a high degree of importance of our life's quality. I'm sure everyone reading this would say that they do too, who wouldn't?

But have you ever really sat down and rationally thought about what that means to you? What would you be willing to endure to stay alive? Or, put another way, what would you not be willing to endure, preferring death instead?

For me my greatest fear as always been something that caused me to lose my ability to communicate verbally or otherwise, leaving me trapped inside my mind. I think I could handle going deaf but blindness would be unbearable. As I age and become more aware that my body will one day start to breakdown I have become aware that some day I will be dependent upon others to take care of me. In our western society that usually means living in an assisted living facility or worse, a nursing home. Without knowing more about it those two options represent to me a total loss of self determination. My ability to live my life as I see fit would be taken away, and control over nearly every aspect of my daily existence rendered to someone else. And not someone I choose or had a loving relationship with either.

For the past seven years Michele has battled a variety of physical ailments, often times enduring painful and embarrassing episodes not knowing when they would lessen or stop. Learning on Friday that she has a metastasis on her left tibia and that metastasis could be the return of breast cancer has been a huge blow to her resolve. While the Internet is a great place to do some ad-hoc research, it also gives new meaning to the phrase, "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing." While we read that the weakened bone can be repaired with a pin, and that localized radiation can stop the cancer, and systemic chemotherapy can ensure it hasn't spread elsewhere, we also understand that breast cancer metastases tend to attack the ribs or pelvic region before extremities.

So we are both scared today. Scared to go to the test tomorrow and learn what this truly is. Scared not to go and continue the hellish existence fear, uncertainty, and doubt have left us in since Friday. Our worst fear is that this cancer is advanced, that even with radiation and chemotherapy they'll have to take her leg. Or that having taken her leg they won't be able to stop the spread. The worst part today is the not knowing.

The best part today has been a deepening of the faith and love we have for each other. We've been reading aloud a wonderful book called The Pagan Christ by Tom Harpur that has explained away many of our questions and doubts about spirituality and the divine. I know that my thoughts about my essence or soul have been eased considerably by this book, and I believe that Michele's have as well.

Over the past three days we've talked and laughed, cried and raged. We've held each other, and provided that all important real physical connection to another we each need to survive. No matter what happens I am going to come out of this with a new sense of what is important and what isn't. Focusing on the relationships I have with others is the most important thing I can accomplish in this lifetime. The love I feel for others, and the love I feel back from them is the only thing I take with me to the next place of existence. All the physical trappings (note the root word trap) stay behind.

Go to the ones you love. Tell them your truth. Forgive them for their frailties and transgressions. Learn to love yourself. To forgive yourself for your frailties and humanness. Become a human being not a human doing.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.