Surprisingly Calm in the Face of Mortality

Perhaps I’m waiting for confirmation of the doctor’s preliminary assessment—that I have a mass in my right lung that’s likely malignant—before I get nervous. Or perhaps the prospect hasn’t fully sunk in. Whatever the reason, I’m not panicking. I’ll wait until I’ve received the results of the P.E.T. scan and the biopsy before I decide how to react. I suppose I also should wait for the prognosis. Even then, I suspect I won’t panic. Something in the part of my brain that controls emotions is telling me to pay attention to information provided to me and to respond with deliberation and resolve. So that’s what I’ll try to do.

This news threw a monkey wrench into my decision, last night, to respond favorably to an invitation to play a speaking role in a play. This afternoon I told my doctor I had just been cast in a play and I asked whether, if I require treatment for cancer, I might have trouble following through on my commitment. He suggested that it might be better to put off my theatrical debut. While he said the possibility exists that the 6 cm mass in my right lung is benign, he said the imaging suggests that it is. So, I reluctantly told the director this afternoon that I’m backing out.

The issue on my mind right now is what I should be doing to prepare. Not for the tests and the prospect of treatment, but for the possibility that “it” could be even worse than I think. Come to think of it, I don’t think I should prepare at all; just let it come as it will. I came to that conclusion after attempting to understand tumor size and its relationship to “stage” of the cancer and their relationship to six-month and twelve-month survival rates. The complexity of those relationships and their potential to foster fear or depression or other such stuff I neither need nor want right now says I ought to leave them alone for the time being. I want to maintain the sense of calm with which I began writing this post. Better to ignore data too complex and requiring too much base knowledge that I don’t have.

My wife opted to stay home from cards tonight because the weather is nasty and even more threatening. That notwithstanding, I am comfortable in my solitude as she watches television, thinking through stuff that one best thinks through alone. I have thousands of documented moods and ideas and wishes and dreams to wade through on my blogs and in my files. Those pieces of me that I’ve shared with myself and the occasional visitor to my blogs merit at least some attention if I am to get them in a shape even remotely suitable for publication, assuming I’m able to do that. Nothing kicks me in the butt harder than knowing my precious writing may simply wither into vapor in the not-too-distant future if I don’t get my ass in gear and do something with it.  Aha! I knew it. My thoughts are not so damn calm as I thought. Well, they’re calm, but they’re not quite so unmoved as I might have claimed. Still no panic, no tears, no raging against the night, but acknowledgement that I’m not a fan of bedtime and I need to revisit my bouncing rubber ball that treats legacy like a demon one minute and a saint the next.

Still, I’m solidly behind the idea that my deliberation and resolve will win the day. They always have, in one way or another. We shall see. Indeed we will.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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