Carolyn Hax: Cancer patient wants others to maybe get this ending

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Carolyn Hax is gone. The following is from March 2, 2008.

Dear Caroline: I was recently diagnosed with an aggressive cancer and have dutifully, albeit miserably, undergone treatment. Prognosis? Who knows. The whole “every day is a gift” thing has become, in a somewhat cruel – and in a somewhat wonderful way – a daily waking thought.

How do I get the people in my life to confess out loud that this could, and will in all likelihood, kill me? Everyone around me insists on being optimistic and denying the truth that this disease is killing people every day and I could be one of them. I try to talk to them about what’s going to happen to my stuff and what their plans are if and when I die from it like I’m hit by a bus, but they bury their heads in the sand and refuse to to have that conversation with me.

Carolyn, I could die from this. I will die one day. Both are statements of fact. So why is nobody talking to me about this?

v.: I’m sorry. I’m sorry about the cancer and the miserable treatments, and, in the spirit of your question, even more sorry that your well-meaning but cowardly confidants left you no choice but to suffer alone.

Your question is why? And my answer is I don’t know. But I can imagine: You live in a society that can’t get enough of fictional death, but prefers the real thing to be squishy, ​​antiseptic and (that’s the key) backstage. The difference can be as simple as the ability to click off when the emotions feel too real. You might even think that their forced optimism is a favor to you.

You probably can’t call people cowards as easily as I can – after all, you want frankness about your impending death, not enthusiasm. However, I think you want to use almost that level of bluntness to get your point across.

As your “somewhat wonderful” observation suggests, clarity, urgency, and courage are on your side here. Gather these, then recruit two more allies: specificity and selectivity. Narrow down exactly what you need, focus on the person who represents your best chance of getting a straight answer, and then ask.

For example: “I need someone to distribute my things. Can you help me please?”

And if you get the oh-it-won’t-come-to-reply, “Yes, it will, and you will die too one day, and I feel better talking about it than avoiding it.” Can you help me please?”

And when heads hit the sand, “Can you explain why you’re not helping me?”

Obviously, this pushes someone well beyond the point at which I would, under normal circumstances, advise withdrawal; You cannot “make” anyone confess or even pretend to anything.

But these are not normal conditions, and your needs call for extreme measures to flush your loved ones out of hiding – as a favor to them, I could argue. Target the intersection between people you trust and people who have told you, “If there’s anything I can do… Gather those offers and tell people you’ll do it.”

Ideally it wouldn’t come to that, I know. Ideally, people would not try to escape the inescapable fact of life. But ideally you wouldn’t be sick. I am so sorry. Be with people as you were with cancer: unwaveringly objective.

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