Monthly Archives: February 2017

At the End of Episode 16

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I recently read an article about a favorite TV series. It featured an interview with the actor who plays a character that died of stomach cancer in the most recent episode. When asked if he knew when his character was going to die, he said not exactly – only that it was coming soon. And then it happened, at the end of Episode 16.

This really struck a chord with me, as I was recently diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. I’ve spent almost a year adjusting to the idea that I have a terminal illness, and will most likely die as a result of it. But I don’t now just when, or just how. The best terminology I’ve heard for this is “living with uncertainty.”

I’ve gone through the shock, the “woe is me” feeling, and sometimes, in a clear-headed moment, on a very sunny day, the acceptance. I went through the motions, making an advance directive and a will, putting my affairs in order, as much as they’ll ever be. I was agonizing over the unknown, and then it hit me. Everyone should do this, BEFORE Episode 16.

No one lives without uncertainty, do they? There’s always that possibility of a car accident, illness, natural disaster, or just plain old age that will take each and every one of us, at some point. They say none of us gets out of this alive. But most of us don’t want to think about the unknown – the inevitable. It’s messy. We like to think we’ll live forever, or just not think about it at all.

So, in order to get my head around this, take care of those end of life decisions and move on with my life, I decided it’s sort of a bonus to know. It narrows down the what-ifs quite a bit. It forces me to focus on doing what I want to do – on doing whatever I can to stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

It also forced – no, allowed me to make some changes in my life. I had to quit working – something I thought I’d never do. It was a difficult decision – I’ve always worked, and now, I just couldn’t keep doing it. I thought it was my first loss in this disease. But now I don’t know how I ever had the time to work! I’ve shifted my time towards pursuing my interests, volunteering at my local library and elementary school, spending time with friends, traveling and enjoying my life.

Sure, I’m constantly reminded of my illness and its limitations. I can’t do as much as I used to. Sometimes I’m just too tired, and sometimes pain and other side effects of medications interfere with my activities. But most of the time I’m grateful to be living my life, because I know that Episode 16 is just lurking there, somewhere in my future, just as it does for us all.

What Can I Say?

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Words. Our language is full of them. Some are short and ordinary, creating no certain visual, like sad, great, like, and nice. Some are larger than life whose meanings are known by few, thus creating no visual at all for those left in the dark. Quockerwodger, sphallolalia, and effutiation have recently shown up in my news feed on Facebook from the folks at Grandiloquent Word of the Day. (If you’re dying to know the meanings of these crazy words, see the key at the end of the post.) They are amusing to learn, but I don’t think I’d ever use them.

The ability to choose the right words can be a gift. For some, an obsession. And for others, sadly, not a concern at all. Some of us have vast, complicated vocabularies, which can either impress others, or leave them baffled. Some of us have a solid command of the language, all the standards with some fairly advanced vocabulary sprinkled in on a regular basis. And some of us stick to just the basics, saying only what needs to be said, in the simplest way possible.

We’ve all known folks who latch onto a few key words or phrases and then use them so often they lose all meaning. And if you are around them enough, you start to do the eye roll as soon as you hear those words. And you always associate those words with that person, no matter who else might use them. And you want to scream every time you hear those words, no matter WHO says them. And one day you realize that these folks who throw these words around ad infinitum aren’t even making sense any more. Do they think these words will make them seem more knowledgable or intelligent? Or do they just love these words so much that they can’t let them go?

Finding the right words is key and we are often judged by the words we use. We use words to express our feelings, or get what we want; to persuade, praise or hurt others. But finding just the right words can become challenging in certain situations: when expressing love, grief or anger, during a job interview, giving a presentation to the board, during a political debate, or explaining to your toddler where babies come from. I’ve written before about the people who use the wrong words, or make up entirely new words. Sometimes that makes me chuckle, but sometimes it’s just downright sad. All the sudden they become flustrated, and start aksing questions that are supposably correct. Right. And sometimes you just can’t think of the word you need. Fortunately, we have words like thingamajig, doohickey and whatchamacallit for those moments.

Just remember…words, no matter which you use, cannot be unheard or unsaid.

*Quockerwodger: a politician who is controlled or bought off by corporations

*Sphallolalia: flirtatious talk that leads nowhere

*Effutiation: spoken or written words that have no meaning or make no sense