How Friends Who Are Told They Are Dying Will Ruin Everything For You


The worst possible thing you can do when you’re down in the dumps, tweaking, vaporous with victimized self-righteousness, or bored, is to take a walk with dying friends. They will ruin everything for you.

First of all, friends like this may not even think of themselves as dying, although they clearly are, according to recent scans and gentle doctors’ reports. But no, they see themselves as fully alive. They are living and doing as much as they can, as well as they can, for as long as they can.

– Anne Lamott, Small Victories

I have very little to add to that except to say how challenged and encouraged I am by the people in my life who refuse to let a bad diagnosis confine them. You know who you are. Whether or not you realize it, we, your friends, are watching and continue to be in awe at the way you LIVE.

A few weeks ago my aunt Linda wrote this:

Good morning, friends. October 28 I put the top down on my T-bird and headed to Penn to meet Dr. Fox. I wanted a new opinion. After sharing the past several years of medical [history] with his kindhearted assistant, Dr. Fox came in the room. He greeted me and began repeating my medical information and made reference to my wish for a clinical trial or some type of new radical treatment.

Then he said, ‘Help me to understand. You were in a wheelchair for most of the spring, you had many surgeries and were told you may always need that chair. The first chemo you were on, failed. The current one is working beautifully. You have almost zero side effects from treatment, you traveled last week, you work hard every day and do what you need to do, for the most part. Now you’re here to ask me to make you really sick and take away your quality of life.’

I laughed out loud! I told him I no longer thought that was a great idea! Everyone laughed with me. Dr. Fox informed me that in his world, the oncology cancer world, I am a success story. I’m what they rarely see. He gave me much hope for a long term treatment plan and complimented my dear friend and oncologist, Dr. Sivendran. The two of them will work together to plan my life.

I went to Penn for a second opinion, but I drove home with a new one of my own. I must be so very thankful every single day and I must embrace the notion that cancer and I share space…until we don’t. Unless I get hit by a bus, I’m here to stay [for] a while. I get to live life to its fullest-with or without hair! Perhaps I have already received my miracle!

We may not all be sharing space with cancer, but we are all sharing space with death, aren’t we? Some of us are marked more profoundly by this sharing than others. Some of us have diagnoses that remind us more specifically of our mortality. But, as John Irving wrote, “we are all terminal cases.”

What will we do with life in the mean time?

3 Replies to “How Friends Who Are Told They Are Dying Will Ruin Everything For You”

  1. Loved this post. What a great start to my day! We always share space with death. So, lets live to the fullest, and not take today for granted!!!

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