Wouldn't you like to know when you'll die? When Gavin was ill, we talked to a multitude of experts about other things, trying to remain in control, without ever directly asking "how long does he have left." There's a certain vogue among "survivors" that says "knowing" tilts your mind toward conforming, toward proving the doctor right (or wrong) rather than just living as long as possible. We were committed that Gavin would "end up" in the upper tail of the survival curve.
A few people told us anyway, and you know, in this world, when you're smart, it's just not that easy to keep your eyes shut tight.
While we didn't take any of the estimates very seriously, we adjusted our minds and lives a dozen times during the 22 month ordeal. Looking back I compared what we expected, roughly, at each of many junction points, with what happened:
When my husband was first diagnosed with a terminal illness, we thought it would shave a few years off his life. (He had less than two years at that point).
Whenever we got into a car, I’d remind him he was statistically more likely to die today in a car accident than from the cancer. (Especially if I was driving.)
When we quit the first doctor, who told us he had a year or two without treatment, Gavin promised me he’d live to see our infant daughter graduate from college. I knew he was wrong. (That doctor’s estimate was right, even with treatments).
When the first treatment failed, we thought he might have another ten years (he had a little more than one year).
Gavin swore he’d be around to see our daughter kick a soccer ball around a big field.
I hoped he'd be right but also figured kids start playing soccer pretty young these days. A month or two later, like Sleeping Beauty’s wishful parents, I banned all balls from the house.
When the third treatment failed, we thought he had another few months (he had about one month left).
When he entered hospice, the experts told us he had a few weeks left (he had just four days).
Two days later, they thought he had a week or so left (he had just two days).
The next morning at 9:00 they thought he had a few hours (he lasted till 7:00 pm).
Is the lesson that the least sensitive doctor of them all -- the one we quit in rage and frustration -- was the best? I don't think so. I just think it's a fool's game to time the market or the reaper.
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