It Turns out “I’m Dying” is a Continuum.

CW: medical, mortality






I visited the oncologist this morning.  I’ll cut to the chase: the cancer isn’t curable.  I’m going to be on chemo for the rest of my life, but as it turns out a) the side effects of my particular treatment shouldn’t be too terrible and b) thanks to medical science, the rest of my life will be measured in years rather than months.  I’ve got a couple of years left, almost for certain.  Maybe as many as ten.  And for all but the last few months of those years, I should be able to do pretty much all the things I’ve always done (luckily mountain climbing was never one of my ambitions).

So am I dying?  Or not?

You could say that I’m dying, I suppose.  I do have something in me that will eventually kill me.  But many of us do, even if it’s just a hidden genetic predisposition, waiting in the wings to manifest as a sudden heart attack or stroke.  The whole mechanism of life and death has never been clearer to me my whole life than it has become this past month.  None of us can escape death, and while it’s a bummer to think about, I’ve learned that there are incredible benefits to truly and deeply facing the inevitability of your end and deciding what that means about the time you have remaining.

Would I prefer to live to 100?  Sure, I guess, but it’s not really about the number of years.  It’s about the story of your lifetime, and mine has been spectacular.  None of us gets forever, so it boils down to, what are you going to do with your time?  I’ve seen so many of my dreams realized already.  And it’s looking like I’ll have time enough to do those last few things that I’d regret not doing.  Mostly what’s left is little things, small pleasures.

I’ll get to learn some things, maybe even finally finish my college degree (I’ve decided I’m at least going to try, because I have been enjoying the process).  I’ll write more stories, maybe even a book or three.  I’ll get to play Starfield and Dragon Age:Dreadwolf and Diablo 4.  I’ll get to show my older daughter the entire Mass Effect trilogy, and probably Dragon Age as well.  My younger daughter and I will get to see our Stardew Valley farm flourish.

I might get to see both girls off to university.  I might not.  But I will have enough time to point them in the right direction, mindset-wise, and to teach them by example to appreciate what time they have.

Will you treat me differently, now that you know I’m dying?  If so, ask yourself if you should treat everyone that way, and if not, why not?  Everyone you know is dying, including you.  That sounds morbid, but it isn’t.  It’s the one commonality that unites every single human being on the planet.  We are doled out a certain number of years, and we have to manage that time, make of it what we can.  I’m pleased with what I’ve made of mine.

At some point, you’re going to have to say goodbye to everyone you know.  Literally everyone.  Either because you’re leaving this world, or they are.  Shouldn’t you make sure you always leave things with them where you want them to be?

As for me, you’ve got at least a couple of years to decide how you want to leave things.  Take your time.  Let’s have a little fun in the meantime, when we can.  Death may be the inevitable end of life, but it shouldn’t be what life is about.

6 Responses to “It Turns out “I’m Dying” is a Continuum.”

  1. Elizabeth Bear

    You are, and remain, a badass.

  2. Dave

    I wish I had gotten the chance to know you better. Over the years you have impacted my life in a positive way a number of times.

    • Mishell Baker

      I’m glad. And I think over the years we’ve gotten to know each other pretty well, hm? Other than Matt, pretty much all my friends are online, so I think you count as one.

  3. Ac3ofDr4gons

    I’m saddened to know that you won’t be around for a great many more years, but the brightest stars almost always burn out faster.
    I’m glad to have gotten to know you as well as I have, though. You’re honestly an amazing person, and I’m proud to count you among my friends. ♥️

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