A version of this post appears on the Vancouver Observer

I have a raft of doctors.  And I now have them all over the country on account of my rare tumour and the collective expertise of the neuro specialists at Toronto Western Hospital.

Toronto Western is where I’ll repair to in the coming weeks for a last ditch operation to extend the palliative period… ie. give me some more months before the spinal chord gives in to the tumour.

Am I happy about this?  Not a @$$##!! chance.

So I’ve added a therapist to my crew.  It’s been a good call.

I haven’t read very thoroughly about all the steps of dying but I do know that there’s grief, anger, acceptance and another two, or is it four?  Whatever.

I do know that I don’t know anything about the correct order.  But don’t grief and anger and the rest have to come before acceptance, logically?

Personally, I seem stuck on anger.  I mean really stuck.

Last week I was at the gym, where I go religiously to try and keep my body parts moving, proving to myself and others that I can fight this thing.

I’m bench pressing – a very low weight because I have totally swallowed my pride, which normally is the size of a prize winning pumpkin in October – but I get up for a drink of water, which comes out my nose but I still do it because, as I’ve noted, I’ve swallowed my pride.

I wipe the snot off my chin and wander back.  There’s a member of the Jersey Shore cast putting new weights on the rack at my bench before sitting down to pump three times his weight.

How do I know he’s a Jersey Shore cast member?  I don’t.  It’s a lousy stereotype but he fits it perfectly with his white wife-beater and ‘fitted’ pulled sideways on his head. The fact that he’s gleefully stolen my bench-press place could also be used in some courts as evidence.

I marshall my full ‘15 year old insecure, in the closet gay guy’ self and confront him.  Predictably, it does not go well.  So I slink off, full of my 15 year old self’s typical self recrimination and proceed to pound out the best set of overhead presses I’ve done in two years.

If only he knew that if I had the means I might have killed him.

That’s how angry I am now.

I yell at little old people doing 20 in a 30 zone.  I’m mad at Sunday walkers walking five abreast on the seawall, impervious to the walking needs of others.  I rage at the rich old men with everything who call into CKNW to bitch about poor people with nothing – that’s supposed to be ironic, the fact that I’m raging at the ragers, I mean.

I’m just mad.

What to do?  I’m not getting out of this on my own.  My husband does not deserve this.  My kids don’t.  And there are professional people to call.  So I called.

It’s great.  Actually, she’s great; it’s awful.  I sit there full of long silences, thinking about all the stuff I want to do, about my kids, about my husband, about my life that I love, the work I want to do, about how ##$$!! unfair this is.

I wallow in the mud pool of self-pity, like an old elephant in a National Geographic nature special.

Then I cry and I sputter out a few inadequate sentences.  And she listens, occasionally probing or offering something to ponder, which makes me think and retreat into silence again.

It’s the old rinse and repeat.

It’s very effective even if it doesn’t ‘fix’ anything.  I’m still going to die way before I want to and there’s nothing a control freak like myself can do about it.  But fixing it isn’t the point.  Understanding it enough to get through the day is.   That may be working.

Come to think of it, ‘understanding it’ would be a good addition to the Kubler-Ross list. It gets you at least half way there.


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11 Responses to Steps

  1. Robbie says:

    I am a newer member of the BCNDP and you have been one of the sources I have come to rely on for perspective and insight into what is going on.

    Very tough news, your situation. I lost my foster mother to 4 years ago, after her 9 year battle with lung, colon and liver cancer finally ended. If you want to contact me, please use my email provided in your screening field.

    You and your family remain in my prayers.

  2. RossK says:

    Crimony Ian–

    If you stop bench pressing before we finish our album for you we may be forced to send you to the moon (all full, no crescent).

    And just to be clear here – we work slow.

    Very slow.


  3. Laila says:

    In my twenties I went through a few years of struggle with cervical cancer. I had two gorgeous young children, and a dickhead abusive husband I couldn’t figure out how to get away from. I still remember the day sitting on the doctors examning table when she walked in and I heard her say the lab called, they found malignant cells and I was booked into the hospital the next day for further tests.
    I cried all the way home. The hospital tests revealed more and treatment began. The beast seemed to feed off treatments and everytime I went for the results of the last treatment… it was larger and plans began for rounds 3… and 4…
    I was angry all the time and I wasn’t dying, but worried about it all the time. My ex used to refuse to drive me to treatments, told me to jump in front of a bus and get it over with faster and man, I was just so freaking angry too, the kind of anger you describe above. There arent words for it and my situation then was no where near on par where you are now.
    I guess what I am trying to say is that in my opinion, its ok to be angry, to feel rage so blindingly white you want to hit walls Ian. It’s ok and it’s natural. I used to get to sick of everyone trying to be so bloody happy and positive around me all the time – it nearly drove me mad! It’s hard for people around us to respond to this kind of anger when they have their own as well, and likely hiding it inside to keep the good face forward. And when your days become like a ticking clock, as my papa used to describe it, waiting for the alarm to go off, it’s a whole different ball game that no one can know how you feel unless they too have an alarm they are waiting for.
    It is unfair. I have several friends with various cancers right now, one is 7 years old, one is in her forties, and one is in her elder years,and none deserve it. None should leave this earth and all, like you, have so much to offer that it is terribly unjust.
    The last lecture by Randy Pausch was brilliant. He did not go gently into that good night and fought til the end to have as much time with his kids and wife.

    You remind me a lot of him in several ways.

  4. Julie says:

    I am angry for you too. This is a time when, life just isn’t fair. But, your anger is making you fight. And Bless you, that’s a good thing.

    The University of Alberta, have found a new drug, Dichloracete that fights brain cancer. So you never know, they could come up with a drug to help you. Just keep on fighting, we are all pulling for you.

  5. Ole Nielson says:

    I am goddam angry too Ian. My eyes are welling as I type this. All of the best to you, your husband and children.

  6. Dre says:

    I just recently discovered your fantastic blog and I appreciate that you keep plugging away at it. If you want a crash course on the steps of dying I can’t think of a better source to point you towards than the ever reliable Homer Simpson:

  7. Alex says:

    Hi Ian,
    You are in my thoughts a lot these days. If there is anything I can do for you you call me. All my love.

  8. Something Smells Funny says:

    You have such a grasp of the life force Ian, it amazes me. Defy, and deny, the prognostications and prognosticators. Just go on living your life as only you can.

    The medical practitioners cannot and do not know all. Live life on your terms, whatever you decide those should be.

    I spoke to a young woman last week whose husband was given two months to live … last November. In December, she took him home from the institution where he was being kept (I hestitate to say “cared for”), and … he’s still truckin’.

    Embrace your life, however much you might have left. None of us know when the ride will end, and you’re better equipped to make the most of life than so many others.

    Be angry. Then be damn grateful for who you are, a shining example of what humanity can aspire to.

  9. Kerry says:

    You inspire me.

  10. gail reaney says:

    Hey Ian, you are so tough… keep tough! … love you lots, Gail

  11. Aaron Ekman says:

    Thanks for writing this Ian.

    Although, I’m suddenly extremely self conscious. I’m 33, I can barely bench more than the bar, and I don’t have a tumor!

    I hope I’ve already said this in a comment somewhere on your blog before, but your writing is immensely helpful for a good number of us.

    Thanks so much for keeping this up while struggling through everything else. Too many of us wouldn’t have the strength for both.

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