What do you do when your Oncologist explains you have incurable bone cancer, not just in one location but in bones throughout the body, and in the lymph nodes as well?
At 81, why should you cry? I’ve had a lucky and happy life, full of achievements, with virtually no regrets. But it is a shock and demands a re-think about priorities — family responsibilities, personal estate issues, unfinished projects, bucket lists. What to keep doing, and what to give up.
And then there is an ethical question. Is it right that Australian taxpayers money is being allocated to keep me alive just one or two extra years. Every hormone therapy injection costs the Government over $1000; the new drugs I am on are also extremely expensive, and there are the regular bulk-billed appointments with the Radiation Oncologist, the Medical Oncologist and the Palliative Care doctors and nurses. Couldn’t this money be better spent on children with cancer, or indeed on education opportunities for the disadvantage?
Even given this treatment, the prognosis is that I will die before my wife, Dorothy, who is in a nursing home with dementia. How much time should I give to her? Can I justify going to my son in Canberra for Christmas leaving Dorothy behind in the nursing home, or going off the WA Kimberlies for that trip I always wanted to do? I don’t have a God I believe in whom I might ask. I have no faith in supernatural interference on my behalf. I have to fall back on my own ethical standards and values.
We all have to die. That is one of the outcomes of living. So much chance has led to our birth as humans on this remarkable planet, one of a hundred million or more in the Universe. I believe we have no status in this Cosmic system, no rights to immortality — not for us, not for our species, not for our Earth, not for our solar system. Existence itself is an absurd phenomenon — not guaranteed, just a strange occurrence in the space-time journey.
I must put aside this metaphysical musing. The immediacy of my life is with me. It dominates my everyday thoughts and all my current decision making. What to do first, what next? Do I keep eating, do I keep active in orienteering or bushwalking , do I sell my push bike, do I keep driving myself, and then what help do I need in the home? There are no right or wrong answers, simply conundrums. Teasers. It is tiring.
And what is more macabre in all this, should I plan my own funeral?