Death was not something that I expected to confront at 31. At this age, most people are building their families, their careers and thinking about the future, not thinking that everything could be over soon. I have mixed feelings about the experience that I cope with daily. On one hand, it was a scary and terrifying experience. I mean, thinking about losing my life and not being here anymore. I had a blood clot as a result of chemotherapy that nearly took my life. As I spent a week in intensive care, I remember thinking about all of the things I hadn’t done, the sole focus I had on my career and education. I spent the last 12-13 years of my life studying and almost didn’t get to reap the benefits of that. It would have been such a waste of life from my perspective to spend so much time climbing for this goal that I achieved, but never really enjoyed. I should have been focusing on all of the life that was happening all along the way.
I would equate this near death experience as a confrontation. I can either succumb to worry about cancer coming back (which lets be honest, every appointment I have reminds me how little control I actually have), some days are easier than others. OR I can take this opportunity to live life the way I want to live it. I can remember how freeing it was right after my first surgery. All of the things that complicated my life were gone, I was in the patient role (with little mobility my wife had to do almost everything for me). I had the excuse that I was recovering which got me out of all of the “obligations” that I didn’t want to cater to anymore. I would equate this experience to waking up from a dreamlike state, sort of a fog that I was in. I was going through the motions, not questioning anything, and sort of coasting through life on autopilot. This experience was like getting the first breath after a coma, waking up to see life for what it really was.
Now that I am moving forward, a year and a half after treatment, I find myself battling these obligations again.
I would like to say that confronting death caused me to have this life changing experience, that nothing was ever the same. This was true for a while, but just as old habits and perspectives took a long time to develop, a single event (no matter how traumatic it is) is rarely enough to instill long term change. I find myself fighting my old tendencies of perfectionism, people pleasing etc, and hate that these things are still relevant right now. I am fighting most days to retain the perspective that I had after my diagnosis, really emphasizing how little all of that stuff really matters.