Deathbed Diaries: It’s All Your Fault (RIP Jackie Collins)
Death and taxes are a fact of life. Unfortunately for more than 70,000 women (and men) in the U.S. between the ages of 20-39, they will add cancer to that list too, more specifically breast cancer. It’s a growing epidemic striking more women per year and at younger ages. In fact, every day, three women under the age of 40 die from this disease and after the age of 35, it becomes one of most common ways a woman will die. Under this shit-pile of facts is one woman’s story.
It was disappointing to find out my death would be so banal. I always thought I’d have something interesting kill me, like a freak accident in an exotic locale that would give way to a new spooky legend or sudden place for miracles. If illness were involved, I would have guessed heart disease, diabetes or something rare, like a 1-in-a-trillion disorder, would have taken me. Even as I volunteered at a breast cancer fundraiser seven months B.C. (before cancer), I remember thinking how it’d never be my problem. Ironically, I was already a sitting duck. And since learning of Jackie Collins’ passing on September 19, from stage 4 metastatic breast cancer, I feel a little more accepting of this end.
Like Jackie Collins, malignant detection came too late for me to attempt at ‘a cure’ and we both kept our diagnosis mainly on the DL. However, I wasn’t quite as private — I did tell others, but only the “top tier” adults in my life and a few others since. Neighbors, acquaintances and people of that vain have no clue, and I’m writing this column anonymously. However, doctors, counselors, nurses, phlebotomists, receptionists, pharmacists, medical technicians, and others in possession of too much information flooded in. Perhaps if I had those extra decades of wisdom like Jackie, I would have known better and kept my prognosis a tighter secret — saving me from the barrage of blame that would come my way.
However, A.D. (after diagnosis), I wasn’t as morose as one would think, as the shock hits hard and the concept of your own passing is too great a concept to grasp in a day or even a few. Also, due maybe to having chronic and morbid depression, the initial impact felt more absurd than anything, leaving me to digest my life like it was a sitcom. I’m the subtly suicidal star and the situation is almost amusing, as my sad mania is no longer a curse, but a release, as long-term repercussions and responsibilities cease to exist. The plot would thicken as I act on my various impulses, rediscovering my appreciation for life again, but only in time to put a smile on my corpse. My life could be a “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” for the dying (or if Whoopi’s character were the star).
Now, I get that people like to be busy and to have a purpose — and that drives the obsession to want to know everything about anything, to seek answers and find someone to blame. When it comes to death, most need to connect a why to the die because it’s so overwhelming. Sadly, the opinions of most people (especially the healthy ones) tend to point the finger at the victim. “If you slept more, ate better, worked less, was more nurturing, used your heart chakra, only wore green on Thursdays, etc., etc., etc.”
Years ago, I saw a “spiritual healer” give a talk to a group of young savvy city girls. At one point, she brought up a friend with breast cancer and what it meant. She broke down and unscrambled a spiritual “message” intended to soothe her friend and others with the same condition, that somehow involved the word ‘breast’ becoming ‘b-rest.’ So, while her friend actually needed a double breast mastectomy and a chemical obliteration of her body, this healer was telling her to slow down, as if moving too fast made her sick. Nevermind all the Type-A people out there who never even get the flu. If “new age lady” were my friend, I would have smacked her upside the head. After her lecture, I wanted to discuss it further with the woman, but an admirer was hanging onto her every word as she dissected the “meaning” behind the position of a clothing company’s logo on someone’s jacket and what kind of “energy” that brings to the wearer. I had to go.
I understand the intent isn’t insincere, most of the time at least, but the blame game cures nothing. I’ve had the occasional death wish, but I also know there are many, many healthy people out there far sadder than I and a million times more committed to their misery too. If restlessness sets off breast cancer, then what is the cause of childhood leukemia? I know one’s emotions and energy and all that is ethereal do matter and have an impact on our overall well-being, but no one has much to say when “manifesting” fails as a two-way street.
Going down the list of what one can do to prevent disease, many of my natural habits are already on that list. I’m also not the age, race or from a family that is high risk. I exercise regularly, have an active lifestyle, eat a mostly veggie diet, get enough rest, am reasonable with money, have a solid amount of friends, take vacations and have a freedom most only dream of. Even animals and small children take to me easily — yet the death sentence fell to me.
As an outlier, I’ve got the right to give a big fuck you to every ridiculous statistic, warning and tidbit of advice, like eating spinach all day can cut your chances of cancer by 30 percent. Of course eating right helps, but 30 percent is such an arbitrary number. Whatever. Like I said, people need to stay busy, so looking for random percentages and other generalizations is a perfect way to stay productive. If you’re awake, you run the risk of experiencing an infinite number of horrendous accidents, diseases and other bullshit, but you do what you can to stay safe and healthy. But time, like cancer, has a way of outsmarting any good routine. You can only protect yourself with what works, until you learn it doesn’t. In the words of Jackie Collins, “Shit happens. You need to move on.”
Our anonymous Deathbed Diaries (formerly One Day Less) blogger is officially on Twitter. Follow her at @KillerTitz.