One of the things you hear when someone has cancer is how they are fighting it or fighting for their life. When someone dies from cancer, we talk about losing the battle. Maybe it's okay to think of it as a war, particularly when there are weapons involved, such as radiation, surgery and chemotherapy. But that suggests that when you stop treatments, you're not fighting it any more. For someone who has stopped treatment, I sometimes feel a little guilty when I read about others who are still doing something. This is intensified when I hear about others who are continuing to "fight", often right up to the end.
I follow a Yahoo group for advanced prostate cancer and these guys seem to try every possible treatment, drug or clinical trial they can find, even if it's "off label" (not using the drug as prescribed). Sometimes they pay tens of thousands of dollars a month if their insurance won't cover it. If you have advanced prostate cancer which has metastasized, you will die from it. If you are older, as many of these men are, you may die of something else, but there is no cure. Maybe some drugs will slow things down a bit, but that doesn't work forever. In my case, I can't tolerate any of the drugs that are available and I refuse to severely limit my quality of life on the chance that it might buy me an extra couple of months. For me, it's just not worth it. For these other guys, I often wonder why they subject themselves to the often horrible side effects and the chance of bankrupting their families (I want to leave every penny I can for my wife to look after herself and I refuse to spend tens of thousands on spec, even if I had the money).
In making this decision, I feel a great weight lifted off my shoulders and I can concentrate on preparing myself and my family for what I know is inevitable. Also, I have time to think and to blog about death and what it suggests about life - my remaining life and the lives of everyone else. I feel kind of sorry for the guys on the group and especially for those who I read about who spent their last remaining months "fighting" a disease which was always going to kill them.
Some people would fight even for a 1 or 2% chance, and maybe you think that it's worth it too. You can ask yourself what percentages you would need to put yourself through the miserable side effects of surgery or chemo. But what a way to spend your remaining time! I think, for many, it's the fear of death that makes them go down this path. They are so afraid to die that they need the "distraction" of treatments, side effects, constant tests and doctor visits - the fight. Or maybe they are resigned to the fact that they are going to die but don't want to spend their time thinking about it. This is a very personal choice, of course, but I think they cheat themselves of an opportunity to enjoy the time they have left - the time to prepare themselves and their loved ones, the opportunity to have a "good death". But that's the way I think about it and maybe I'm in a small minority. While I don't consider myself lucky to have this disease by any stretch of the imagination, I am glad I have had the time to think, to adapt, to share.
We all have to die sometime. It's a gift to have the time to prepare. I have already fought this disease for over 8 years. I have hoisted the white flag now so I can squeeze the best out of the time I have left. Think about what you would do.