There was about a month in my life where I was staring my own mortality right in the eye. First I needed surgery, and then I was waiting for the test results. They’d found a rather large ovarian tumor, and anyone old enough to remember Gilda Radner probably knows what that can mean. By the time ovarian cancer causes any symptoms, it has usually spread and is often terminal. They couldn’t tell me before surgery that my tumor wasn’t cancer – they weren’t encouraging at all, really.
Terrified doesn’t begin to describe what I was feeling.
I had almost a month between when I first landed in ER with abdominal pain, and when I saw the doctor post-op, to finally get all of the biopsy and pathology results.
I had almost a month to wonder if I would even see my daughter through to the end of her freshman year of high school, much less graduate high school, college, get married, etc.
I had almost a month to conclude that as challenging as my marriage can be at times, I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. But I had that same month to mourn the dreams we’d shared for our retirement, when we’d finally have some real time to devote to each other, to really enjoy life.
It’s quite an experience, to stare down your own mortality for an extended basis – to not only see your life flash before your eyes, but have time to contemplate the future that might not be.
This time, mortality blinked first. My tumor was a rare type that looks malignant, but is benign.
I’d like to think I learned something from the experience, other than the need for more regular preventive care and checkups.
It’s pretty cornball, but I try (and yes, sometimes fail) to remember who and what is really important.
I try to be slower to anger and faster to forgive. My pride is a lot easier to swallow these days – I’d much rather lose a little face than lose precious time with loved ones that I’ll never get back.
I may not talk to my parents a lot more often now, but I tell them I love them on every call, something I didn’t used to do.
I’m not perfect, and I’m not a doormat, but the experience gave me some Teflon for the soul. Some things that would have infuriated me or deeply wounded me often just slide off now. I probably have a nice, long life ahead of me now – but what if I don’t? I’d rather choose my battles more carefully, and not waste time on crap that just won’t matter when I am on my deathbed, whenever that may be.
This was all a couple of years ago, but every once in a while, I need to remind myself.