The Mercy of Sickness before Death by D.G. Myers
Just so you understand: I am dying. I am in the end stage of metastatic prostate cancer, and after six-and-a-half years of close association with the disease, I have another six months to two years to live. That probably sounds exhibitionistic, but I don’t mean it to. Nor am I fishing for pity. Truth is, I’d sooner have your laughter.
Man says, “I’ve been diagnosed with terminal cancer, but I am going to fight it with everything I’ve got.” “My money’s on the cancer,” his friend says. Find me that friend.
What cancer patients need more than anything is to take responsibility for their disease. From their doctors, from their family and friends, and especially from themselves, they need simple honesty about their condition, their treatment options, their chances.
A cure may not be possible, but even in the face of death, moral and intellectual growth is. ….There is nothing good about dying of cancer, especially when, as I do, you have four children under the age of eleven and a wife whom you lust after and adore.
Cancer may be a death sentence, but there are many ways to read the sentence. Resignation is only one of them, and a particularly arrogant one at that, because it presumes to know, as it cannot, the outcome in every detail.
You no longer waste or mark time. You fill it, because now you can see the brim from where you are lying.
“In a sense,” Flannery O’Connor wrote to a friend about the lupus that would kill her at thirty-nine, "Sickness is a place, more instructive than a long trip to Europe, and it’s always a place where there’s no company, where nobody can follow. Sickness before death is a very appropriate thing and I think those who don’t have it miss one of God’s mercies.
How could it possibly be merciful of God to reduce you to the hyperawareness, every second of your waking life, that death is relentlessly approaching? Even if it is a knowledge that most other men and women do not have, regardless of what they may like to say, is it knowledge worth having?
You find yourself on a distant planet, alone, with only your own inner resources to fall back upon. No amount of magical thinking or denial will alter your circumstances. You either accept what you have become, and rise above yourself to attend to the others who still need your attention, or you spend your last months in the confinement of self-pity.
In Thanksgiving For Sickness Before Death Rod Dreher comments
It won’t surprise you that this reminds me of the wisdom Dante acquires midway through his journey through Paradiso: That he can do nothing to reverse his condition of exile, but he does have the freedom to choose how to respond to it. His fate is to suffer in that particular way, but the courageous thing to do, the noble knight Cacciaguida tells him, is to choose to turn suffering into a virtue. Learn its lessons, and realizing that you have nothing left to lose, tell the truth, so that others may profit from what your experience teaches. You sojourn through a strange land, and your adventure teaches you things about life that could help others to improve their own lives, if only by giving them the tools with which to bear their own suffering more courageously.
Posted by Jill Fallon at June 18, 2014 2:10 PM | Permalink