This past week Senator John McCain was diagnosed with brain cancer. The type of cancer he has is aggressive. Much like mesothelioma, he has treatment options and it is reported that he is weighing which one he will choose. The news was received with people wishing him well and urging him to fight on and that he will defeat cancer. Whatever course of treatment he chooses everyone wishes the Senator well. A few days after the announcement the Senator was back at work in Washington. Doing what he wanted.
“You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and the manner in which you live.” Stuart Scott the late anchor on ESPN, said in a speech while accepting the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance in July of 2014. When diagnosed with a life-threatening illness what do you do? What do you want the closing chapters of your life to look like? How do you want to spend your days? What is important to you? Do you want to explore every possible treatment option? How do you want to spend your time?
Although it might seem that at this point in your life you have no control, that cancer has taken that away from you, it could be offering you the time to decide what is most important to you. To reflect on what is important to you and what is not important.
Recently a patient was dying in the hospital and wanted to go home. Every minute was important to her, she wanted to spend her time with her family. She was undergoing a palliative procedure done in order to make her more comfortable, the procedure was a success. She felt physically better, mentally her anxiety was high- she equated the two hours invested in the procedure as hours better spent with her family. She was discharged immediately after the procedure, she will not return. She has chosen to spend her remaining time at home with her loved ones.
In addition to dealing with your own mortality you have to deal with other people’s reactions to your news. Well-meaning people will tell you stories of other people they knew or possibly themselves who faced cancer and what happened to them. These stories and well wishes are told to boost your spirits and offer support, and sometimes they do. Every person’s life is unique, everyone has their own story to tell, from their own unique perspective.
Regardless of the outcome of Senator McCain’s treatments he has already won at life. He is living his life on his terms. His life of service to our country and the manner in which he has conducted himself throughout his life is a testament to life. As his own unique journey with brain cancer begins, we offer him our support.