February 24, 2006

Thoughts on Mortality, Cancer and Life In General

FightOn (3).gifChildren and adolescents, young folk and even many older folk do not see themselves as being mortal in any sense of the word. I was 15 when my Grandmother died, the first close relative whose funeral I attended. I had an inkling of death, but never saw myself in the same situation, lying in a coffin, being mourned. We call this the myth of immortality or invincibility and we all have it to one degree or another. For many of us, that myth is never shattered because we die suddenly. Heart attack, accident, swift, sure and fatal. Having said that, others, and now me included, have that sense of immortality shattered in a single word: "Cancer" and suddenly we are faced with the prospect of death and our mortality stares us in the face.

I am fortunate, my cancer was caught early, and the chances for the magic five-year survival time are better than even, but not an absolute and not guaranteed. I remain upbeat, even from the first. I know, having been a psychotherapist for longer than I'm willing to admit (and no, Sigmund Freud and I were not classmates - he was in the year ahead of me - big grin inserted here) that a positive attitude is an absolute must in fighting back. One of my commentors noted that two sisters had breast cancer almost simultaneously, one who was an optimist, the other a pessimist. The optimist is still living, the pessimist, sadly, is not.

A few nights ago, resting a little uncomfortably prior to going to sleep, I wondered what it would be like when I cross over as the saying goes. I have never had that particular thought before, at least not that I remember and I remember thinking, I cannot go yet, I have too much to do. On the other hand, I also know, beyond any doubt that we are all going sometime, from something or other. No one gets off this earth alive except the astronauts, and not all of them.

So, how do I now cope with the sure knowledge (as opposed to an intellectual exercise) that I am indeed mortal? In my wild and wooly teen-age years my dad would comment "Son, I don't know what is going to happen to you.” I would usually quip back, "Don't worry about it dad, I'll probably be dead by the time I'm thirty.” Well, I am very nearly twice that now (fifty-nine if you must know) and I distinctly remember calling my dad on the eve of my thirtieth birthday and telling dad that I sure was glad I was wrong. He agreed and noted that he had been worrying about that for over a year. But I digress, mortality is the subject.

Erik Erikson is one of my psychological heroes. He was trained as a classical psychoanalyst but broke with Freud over Freud's psychosexual stages. Erikson renamed them psychosocial stages and predicted, correctly I think, that developmental stages started at birth and lasted until death. That we are always in play. His last stage of life, was Maturity. Erikson postulated that the psychosocial conflict of the Maturity stage was "Integrity vs. Despair" in which the individual looked back at life and if resolving for integrity, realized that his life was meaningful, that a legacy of some sort was left behind and that the life lived was a good life. If resolving for despair, one looked back on life, saw nothing of value, saw nothing worth the life lived, and began to fear death.

I would like to think that even though I am not fully at the "mature" level (which Erikson pinned at about age sixty-five) I have lived a good life. I have been more than happily married. I have raised a daughter who contributes to the next generation as a teacher, I have helped many clients improve their lives, and I have been loved.

Does that mean then that I am ready for the grave? Hell no!!! I have a lot of living to do yet and I have every intention of living a long, long time. Yet, I am also cognizant that I have lived more than half my life and the time remaining will not be another 59 years (barring some miracle of modern medicine). I expect to be at least in my mid eighties before I go. At least my mid eighties – maybe even older (insert another big grin here.) I used to tell people that I thought everyone should pick how he or she go... and I chose to be 144 years old and shot to death by a jealous bridegroom; and that he would have good reason to be jealous! It usually got a laugh. But, why not? Why let reality hammer a good belly laugh or let the vicissitudes of life destroy the enjoyment of life.

Should I die tomorrow (I won't, I haven't paid for this month's bandwidth yet) I know for sure that I will be missed, that I will be mourned and that I will have changed lives for the better. That is a good epitaph methinks.

So, faced with what 20 years ago was a death sentence for sure, I'm looking forward to the magic 5 year mark. I'm looking forward to many, many nights of cuddling with my beloved wife, I'm looking forward to helping some of the addicted kids I work with calling me and saying "Hey, Mr. Roper, I'm still clean and I finished High School too!” Won't that be nice?

Cheers to all of you who have wished me well, and remember, if you are ever faced with bad news, don't give up, don't give in. Armed with a grin, a belly laugh and love in your heart; Fight On!

Posted by GM Roper at February 24, 2006 02:32 PM | TrackBack

I sit humbled at the wisdom and truths that you have placed here today GM.

Wisdom does come with age, I guess, and that would make you a wise one indeed. Fifty nine.....uhhuh....fifty nine what though, THAT is teh question....fifty nine of what?

Posted by kender at February 24, 2006 03:42 PM

I thought you were the teacher for Sigmund Freud...
Damn Mustang telling fibs again...
glad to have you back and kickin sir.
Fight On!

Posted by Michael at February 24, 2006 04:28 PM

Good outlook on life GM. I am still wishing you well my friend.

Posted by Gribbit at February 24, 2006 04:53 PM


Good post sir. I too like Erikson. I am in the Generativity vs. Self-Absorption phase of my life. What I do for a career is important and I know I contribute a lot hard hours to it. But that didn't seem like a enough, so now I blog. It's made a difference. Not only do I not yell at the TV as much, I have a outlet that provides me with a cathartic release that otherwise would build up and eat away at whatever level of peace I have been able to discover.

Keep that positive attitude, it's the first step to any kind of recovery. Fight On. Fight On.

Posted by LASunsett at February 24, 2006 05:04 PM

GM, when I was much younger and a drug addict, I saw death first hand on a daily basis. Even as it hit me upside my head I still never thought it would get me...til I OD'd and was in a coma for three months; I still have vivid memories of leaving my body and screaming to get back into it- my soul. When I came out of the coma they told me I coded five times and nearly died at each event. I was just 16 when that happened. So I have tasted death and have never taken life for granted since then. I live each day like it's my last; I savor each breath as though it were my last; every laugh and every tear and every smile and worry - I know could by my last...so...I live life fully and it's why I might be a little crazy at times. LOL.
I learned a long time ago, do what feels good and do what is right for you.

Doing the work I do, nursing, also exposes me to death quite often. I except it in myself- it's going to happen and when my time is up, IT's UP. Since we really can't chose that time (unless we live in the Netherlands or Oregon lol ) we LIVE STRONG, we LIVE LONG, we SHINE ON. Our spirit is always there in everything we say, do, think- our spirit lives in those whose lives we have touched.

Savor your time here on Earth. I plan on being around to annoy all my friends and you good people for a long time LOL and so had you!! Life can be a battle. So we FIGHT ON. Never stop. Never.

Posted by Raven at February 24, 2006 06:56 PM

Should I die tomorrow (I won't, I haven't paid for this month's bandwidth yet)--GMR

Now that is the attitude I respect. Integrity --- first. last, always.

You the MAN, GM. Wishing you all the best as always.

Posted by dougf at February 24, 2006 07:34 PM

We can all learn a lesson in life by the mature way in which you are facing your hardship.
There is a book I just finished dealing with survival and the mental aspects of it. "Deep Survival" by Laurence Gonzales. It deals with the chemistry and psychology of survivors...it's a fast read if you are interested.

Posted by Glen Blagg at February 24, 2006 08:27 PM

Great thoughts. I'm glad you shared them.

It's my experience that people who die from chronic diseases are calm and accepting in death. That is not to say they gave up or that they wished to die, but simply that there is a moment of acceptance that brings peace. I not anxious to die, but at the same time I don't worry about or fear death because this knowledge comforts me as I face the unknown. And as a Christian, I know I will survive even death.

The other good news is that you sound like you are doing well. Congratulations and best wishes.

Posted by DRJ at February 24, 2006 10:20 PM

That, GM, is the right attitude.

Fight on, blog brother!

Posted by Seth at February 25, 2006 08:36 AM

I really hate it when young whippersnappers like GM are so chuck full of wisdom. Between Mustang and GM, I don't get the deal about who is more "senior". Hmmm.

Some smart-ass was giving me grief about how I now rated the "senior discount" and how that wasn't "fair". I asked, semi-politely, if they'd like to trade places. You know, you can get the small discount and I could run the clock back more than a decade.

Am I whining? Probably. Do I have the right to do so? Maybe...maybe not. I have also been very blessed in my life. One of many blessings is to know GM.

He's an ACE of a gent and the world is better for him being in it. Of course, that is just my opinion. If you asked a Lefty, they might give you another opinion.

Speaking of things: My teeth-grinding opinion on the gloomy Saturday is: The Iraqis really need to get their collective act together. If they do not, it will probably be politically impossible for any President of either party to maintain our assistance to them. If that happens, lots of really badness will descend on Iraq. Meanwhile, the USA may adopt the Eisenhower approach, i.e. we won't do anything to anyone.....except use Nukes. I know, it is not really the best or most humane option, but it is the cheapest and...well, I'll wait for the "heat" to answer.

I do think we ought have the updated SIOP published and passed out to everyone. They could see that they were on the list and we also could share some of the info on just how capable our "delivery systems" are. I REALLY hate having to use this as an alternative, but it looks more and more likely. Comments?

Conclusion: Things being what they are, I am confident the New and Improved (like TIDE?) GM will set me straight on all of this.


Posted by Tad at February 25, 2006 12:47 PM

Thank you for writing this. What you wrote needed to be said, and those us reading your post need to think about the excellent points you've made.

I had an inkling of death, but never saw myself in the same situation...

Who was it that said something akin to this: "If we realized the truth about our mortality, we'd scream every day"?

Our time here on earth is precious--whether that time is long or short. All of us need to remember that truth.

Posted by Always On Watch at February 25, 2006 01:46 PM


A very interesting and introspective post.. We have those thoughts when we are faced with the reality of leaving this earth. I am over the "mature" mark of 65 years by at least a dozen and have faced such a reality at least three, probably more times in my life.

But you, as a professing Christian should never fear or even wonder about leaving this earth. The question is "Am I ready?" There are two answers, the physical and spiritual.

The physical question would be, "Am I ready to leave my family and friends?" Unless one is in excruciating pain I can not imagine a "Yes" answer here.

The second question would be "Am I spiritually ready to leave this body to be with the Lord in Heaven." You, as a Bible believing Christian have the answer and it is, "Yes." There can be no doubt that one who has trusted Christ as personal Savior has God's guarantee of Heaven immediately upon leaving this old physical body. 2 Corinthians. 5:8 says believers in Christ will "....be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." In John 14:2 Christ, speaking of Heaven, says to believers, "....I go to prepare a place for you."

As a clincher, the Apostle John recorded this in 1 John 5:13 "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God."

So GM, as a Christian, have no doubts, enjoy your friends, family and the time the Lord gives you here on earth. Keep fighting the fight for life but enjoy the guarantee of eternity with Christ.

I am praying for your comfort as you and your family as you fight on, my friend!


Posted by ExPreacherMan at February 25, 2006 04:42 PM

Thank goodness for change and thank goodness for new chances - "Carry On" - and on - and on - and on for the best of years ahead!

Posted by Chrys at February 25, 2006 06:22 PM

Death is a sobering topic. In any case, I'm really not in any hurry to join eternity; they'll be plenty of time once I get there. GM, you certainly sound like you're not in any hurry either...

Posted by civil truth at February 25, 2006 07:04 PM

Hey buddy ..not sure if u ever saw this..it was posted a while ago..plz have a look if u have a minute...For YOU

Posted by Angel at February 28, 2006 10:54 PM

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