I’m going a bit philosophical this blog. Asking the question – what constitutes the end of life? A week ago my father passed away – died. His living life ended. He died in hospital peacefully following a short illness. He knew it was time – I would venture to say he had had enough. Life recently had not been great for him as his wife had been consigned to a nursing home a couple of years ago with Altzheimers. He visited regularly but she didn’t know him any more. He was clearly lonely.
His general health was quite good and he had all his faculties in spades. Money was not in abundance but not a problem either. His small council pensioners home sufficed, and the neighbours looked out for him. Although continents apart we communicated regularly by phone and text – yes text – mainly about cricket and rugby. He was 91 years old. I believe he was content, but nevertheless I do believe he had had enough, and when he was admitted to hospital with chest pains he confided to his daughter in law that he didn’t think he would be coming out this time. He died two days later, peacefully, in his sleep.
He had lived a long life, had fought and been wounded in the war, where he met my mother who was nursing him. They married, lived a hard life in post war Britain and worked hard to forge a living for us. She died young – 52, after a long, long fight against cancer. He remarried a few years later and lived on to enjoy his life . I feel sad at his passing but at the same time I am happy for him that he led a full and happy long life, despite no riches, despite hardships.
His wife of many years still languishes in the nursing home, alive – but ‘living’?? It is not my intention to discuss her position. The family intention is not even to tell her that her husband has died as it simply would cause stress beyond understanding – what husband??
So ……. what is living? and what is life?
When people discuss life, cancer, terminal conditions, serious injury etc .. the question always has to arise “what about the ‘quality of life’ – what is ‘quality of life’?
I am approaching the end of cycle 3 of my initial bout of chemotherapy. Without going into detail I would just say that it has been very, very debilitating in so many ways. It has completely changed my life for this short period. I haven’t ‘lived’ I have been ‘living’. Full of pain, discomfort, fatigue and depression, unable to do pretty much anything I normally do. I have stage 4 to come – the worst stage I have been told, in preparation for a stem cell transplant. This whole scenario is designed to help my problem, to extend my life, to enable me to live normally and make the most of the time ahead.
Best case scenario is great, it works! Worst case scenario – Crap, it doesn’t. then what?
The quote at the top of my blog does not refer to being alive – it refers to ‘living’ …… feeling alive! By the time this whole thing ends I will have ‘lost’ 6 months of my life. My life span has not ended by six months, but I have lost the chance of living fully those six months of my life. Chemotherapy does that for you.
Is it worth it? Of course like most people in my position I am fully aware that there are many, many people who are worse off than myself. Who in this world, when beset with problems cannot say that? That, however, is not relevant. This is my life, my chance. Should I be grateful for it? Should I be prepared to do anything to stay alive?
If I am told in a few months time that ‘things didn’t quite work out we need to do it all again’ ….. should I do it all again. Should I be prepared to lose another segment of my opportunity to ‘live’ in order to stay alive ( not guaranteed by the way!) …… or should I simply ‘live’ and be damned until living really does end for me?