“Mom”, inquired my eldest boy, Ben, “Do you have a DNR”?
Oh good grief. There is was. There was the question from Hell. The question itself was not so bad, mind you. It was the implications dripping from the question that bothered me most.
“I do not, Ben. Not at this point.” I replied. “There are two conditions that have lead me to not have a DNR: I have good quality of life and I have hope. When those change, so too may my thinking. But right now – I am prepared to fight for my life.”
And that almost ended the conversation right there and then. I hope the answer satisfied him. I hope my answer came across as being strong and definitive – and hopeful.
It wasn’t until later on last night when I found myself repeating the same conditions to my niece and sister-in-law. We were sharing a lovely dinner together and, of course, cancer was discussed. In this case, it was a discussion about genetic testing. That is not an easy subject – nor an easy topic. There are so many layers of implications to that issue.
“Mom, do you think it would be easier to be the one who “has” BRACA-2 or doesn’t “have” BRACA-2?” Ben had asked me earlier that day.
“Buddy, there is no easier. It’s all hard.”
“Yeah, I guess.” (Silence)
Earlier that week, my daughter had offered that it would be better if “she” were the one to get the tainted gene. She felt she could handle it better. She didn’t want the boys to have to deal with that gene.
It seems, they are all thinking about it. It seems that still waters run deep. It seems that one can never assume the topic of cancer has no voice – no matter how soft it is, it speaks volumes.
And so it begins. Another chapter of cancer for another generation. I have my beast of burden to manage and it reared its ugly head as Stage IV. The next generation will not have to face that same beast in the same way – unprotected, unguarded, and vulnerable.
I just have to buy a few more years of time. I feel it in my bones that there will soon be a life-long treatment, if not a cure.
“By the time you guys are even screened, Ben, I’m sure there will be such better treatments – maybe a cure.” This was my conclusion for Ben.
“Maybe none of you have the gene and it will die with me.” This was my conclusion for Katya.
For these two solutions – I have great hope.
End of life conversations, though, are becoming easier as they become more frequent. I don’t find them morose or fatalistic. I think they are more factual and practical. I have quality of life now and I have hope and so those conversations are held a distance apart from my heart. They still exist in my head. Even speaking about survivor benefits has become less dramatic. I am not quite ready to make decisions yet. And maybe that’s because I cannot predict my prognosis beyond this round of chemo? Will that new drug work for me to prolong remission? If so – then decisions I make also change. There are so many balls in the air right now in terms of my health. I guess I’m different from most in that I am a more active participant in my own healing. Cancer has forced my hand to make those choices. Everyone has choices, it’s just that the choices for cancer are slightly more grave than treating a cold.
If I can buy another two and a half more years, I’ll have beaten the odds. And from where I stand today – I think I can. I have good quality of life. Today. I have hope. Today. I have no DNR. Today. And today counts.