You can’t do it all and everyone dies

Ryan said to me, I don’t read your blog all the time but when I do it sounds like, I’m not sure, like you’re writing around things, I know there are things happening that you aren’t talking about and you’re not making direct references to dying but it’s there. It makes me feel uncomfortable. It makes me feel uncomfortable and it makes me feel sad. I’m not saying you shouldn’t write about it, but I just thought I should tell you.

Emily said, It’s hard for me to think of you as a person who has cancer and I said, it’s hard for me to think of myself as a person with cancer, too.

When I saw my psychiatrist this week, I told him what Ryan said, about obliquely referencing death and dying. But I don’t know if I should talk about it more explicitly, I said, how much more should I talk about it? He said he had a patient who was so superstitious that she wouldn’t let him use the word cancer, that to do so would be to invite it in — into the room, into her body. He suggested that maybe I was afraid to speak directly about death because I was afraid I would be inviting it. I don’t think that’s it, I said, I don’t think talking about death will make me die sooner. I’m just not close enough, you know? I don’t think it’s totally appropriate to be talking about how I’m dying when I’m not that sick yet. I don’t want to be that girl who talks about how she’s dying for seven years to the point that people say, ‘Enough, can’t you just shut up and die already?’

Sometimes when I talk about dying with Emily, she is dismissive. We’re all dying, she says. But it’s different, I tell her, I have a pretty good idea of what’s going to kill me and that I probably won’t have as much time left as most. But Emily is resolute. Everyone dies. That’s just what happens.

There aren’t many people who can say something like that to a person with incurable cancer without coming across as the biggest dick in the world, but Emily can.

I wryly mentioned to Ryan that I look at the 800+ friends I have on Facebook and wonder which of them will die before me. Statistically speaking, someone will have a heart attack or be in an accident or have an aneurysm before me. I don’t count the friends who are already ill. I count the ones who don’t know yet that they’ll die. People tell me my story is heartbreaking. And I accept that with a bit of a shrug. To quote Emily, Everyone dies.

Emily and I were sitting in a Tim Horton’s drinking tea. She was upset about having to make a decision to give up doing something she loves. I want to do it all, she said. Of course you do, I answered. But you can’t. And Emily said something like, it’s not fair, and I laughed at her, and she took a deep breath and rolled her eyes towards the ceiling to keep the tears from overflowing. I’m not going to have a breakdown in the middle of a Tim Horton’s. And she didn’t.

I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked what scares me or upsets me about dying. I’m not scared, I usually say, but there are so many things I want to do and experience and there isn’t enough time. It’s not fair.

You can’t do it all but keep wanting it, Emily.


About Alicia Louise

I'm a writer, editor, fact checker, storyteller, events organizer, chronically busy yet endlessly lazy, mildly neurotic (though I keep the neuroses well-hidden, one hopes) 32-year-old with recurrent ovarian cancer. I like people and good writing and straight talk. I have a hard time feeling sorry for people, including myself, but the people that I love, I love passionately; one may even say creepily. I try to keep that mostly to myself. I'd like to be charming, but I'm usually just a mess. I'm like a gull slamming into your windshield.
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