Suicide: The Night I Took My Life
Hope had been ripped from me.
Thirteen days had passed since the doctor told me that I had cancer and about a year to live if I did not do what he (the surgeon) prescribed.
I spent the previous four weeks submitting to tests and biopsies, but I held on to a bit of hope that, perhaps, there were other explanations. But now, I could not deny it any longer. The cruel mirror of life had forced me to look at my future.
Cancer had broken in to my world and now was robbing me, and the people who knew me.
I was pretty much in a fog most of that first month. I was in a panic those next two weeks. What I did not want, in any way, was to be a burden to anyone, least of all to the people who would have to watch me die so quickly.
As I struggled to wrap my own head around the news, I started preparing everyone by sharing the situation, giving my things away, and making plans, looking first at the possibility that I would not make it through the surgery for which I had been scheduled mid-June.
For 13 days I lived with the pain of knowing what each person in my life would have to endure. So, in the wee hours on May 28, 2012, I made a decision. I felt that the pain that others would experience would be no worse for my family and friends than watching cancer take me cell-by-cell.
I would end my life that night.
I slept fitfully and I do not really remember too much about that day. I likely walked around like a zombie, trying to figure out what I could do to clean things up so not to leave a mess for those tasked with going through my effects to clean up.
More accurately, I did not want the embarrassment of someone walking in to go through everything and thinking poorly of me. (Even in death, I care about what others think. It is funny to me, now that I think about it.)
When the phone rang that afternoon, I did not hesitate to answer it.
I found that people had stopped calling me as often, probably having trouble dealing with their own emotions in relationship to me and the diagnosis. I picked up the phone because I needed to hear someone’s voice—anyone’s voice. I felt very lonely at that moment.
“Hi, Coral!” chimed the cheery-voiced Jessica from the American Cancer Society.
I thought it odd that she would be calling me. I almost responded with a “how-do-you-know-I-have-cancer-and-who-told-you?” She called to see if I had interest in volunteering for a breast cancer walk scheduled in the fall.
I matter-of-factly told her “Though I would love to be involved…” and then shared my diagnosis with her and what the doctor said I was facing.
Of course, she was sympathetic. But what does someone say when that bomb is dropped? I may have even cried.
I asked her if she would be at the upcoming Relay for Life on the 8th of June. I signed up the previous week, starting a team to walk with family and friends before my original scheduled surgery at the Army Medical Center. She told me that she would be there.
The last words that I spoke to her on the phone that day were, “I’ll see you on the eighth.”
If it were not for that phone call, I would have taken my life that night. But I gave my word that I would see her, and I try to remain true to what I will say I will do.
I was not pleased having made that commitment. I struggled with wanting to end my life and keeping my word, much like the other perfection issues of making sure the house was clean, and it was the impetus that kept me going until I had fulfilled that obligation. I could not call her back and explain why I would renege.
The following day, I had an appointment for a second opinion with a doctor I knew at the University of Washington Medical Center. It was at that meeting that I learned more about this cancer I had—carcinoid cancer—and gained a new perspective about living with it.
"Coral, I had a patient with pancreatic cancer whose liver was worst than yours. She is still alive after 17 years."
It was the first time in six weeks that I felt encouraged.
The story did not end there. What transpired in the following three weeks was almost too much to bear—challenging an ego-driven Army surgeon (I did NOT do what he prescribed, thankfully), a crippled military medical system and the challenge of trying to shake my own demons. Those challenges were also driven by my keeping my word.
Maybe it was that “fight” that kept me alive. Proving someone wrong. I do not have a history of doing things in the most peaceful of fashion.
But I cannot dismiss…
The random phone call. Giving my word. Knowledge and new perspective. A glimmer of hope returned.
And then, I took my life...back.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Author's UPDATE: It has been almost three years since I was first thrown into the situation that is now just a part of my life. The desperation that I felt has passed into an acceptance that life gives challenges that we must all face.
Of course, there are some days that seem tougher than others to face, but last year (on the two year anniversary of the day I received my diagnosis) I realized that I had to stop waiting for doom's day. I was still alive, though living in fear, even as I put on a good face for the public eye.
The reality is that we all pass from this earth and no one knows when that will be or even how it will happen. It is important for us all to embrace life each day that we are given, no matter the challenges we may be given.
I am LIVING with cancer, not dying from it. What are you LIVING with? Let us all celebrate life and live it with gusto!!
© Adapted and Reprinted 2015 Coral Levang
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
To learn more about Carcinoid Cancer visit: http://www.carcinoid.org/ and http://www.carcinoidawareness.org/
Originally published by author on Bubblews.com on May 28, 2013, on the one year anniversary of the day about which this was written © 2013 Coral Levang
Carcinoid | Carcinoid-Cancer | Neuroendocrine-Cancer | Suicide | Hopelessness | Hope | LivingwithCancer |
Image Credit » http://pixabay.com/en/nightmare-cry-shout-woman-despair-364838/
Hollyhocks100 wrote on February 8, 2015, 7:01 AM
Wow Coral, this post is so moving and I am so very pleased you are still here to tell the tale. It seems to me that the phone call was fate playing its part, or your angels making things happen to give you another option. Why oh why on earth wasn´t some glimmer of hope given to you on the day of your diagnosis? Surely that would have been the right thing to do.1
CoralLevang wrote on February 8, 2015, 7:15 AM
Hollyhocks100 Thank you. As far as the initial surgeon and his "manner": Suffice it to say that it did not end there. When I decided to go a different route than his suggestion, he had my insurance approval to go to a doctor outside the military medical system rescinded. It was a stressful time to deal with a stage IV cancer diagnosis, the "what-ifs", and then the insurance fiasco his ego caused me. I am also convinced that had I allowed him to do what he had prescribed, I would not be here. His ego got in the way of sensibility, in my opinion.1
AsADrivenLeaf wrote on February 8, 2015, 8:01 AM
I'm dumbfounded. I've seen your deep rooted assurance, "it is well with ny soul" means. You could inspire, encourage people who are struggling with life, as well.
Kasman wrote on February 8, 2015, 8:30 AM
We tend to view the medical profession as being next to God and we revere their knowledge and (generally) follow their advice but we must not forget that it is OUR bodies and OUR lives which we place in their hands. Doctors such as the military doctor you speak of are the worst examples of the medical profession; thankfully, you did not listen to him. Thinking of you.1
PS: What's the difference between God and a doctor? God doesn't think he's a doctor!
CoralLevang wrote on February 8, 2015, 8:45 AM
asadrivenleaf Several years ago, even before this diagnosis, I claimed my purpose in life "to help others by inspiring them to see beyond the things they see as challenges in their lives." I never dreamed that I would be given the same lesson in a very large way. Thank you for your kind words.
MegL wrote on February 8, 2015, 8:46 AM
Very inspiring. The universe has a strange way of catching up with us sometimes. Serendipity
CoralLevang wrote on February 8, 2015, 8:49 AM
kasman As I have always questioned things in life, it seemed natural for me to do so, but it didn't go over well with the Lunatic...erm, Lieutenant Colonel. LOL
I am grateful that I am bold and feisty enough to take them on or, I am convinced based on some other things that happened/were said, I would not be alive today.
CoralLevang wrote on February 8, 2015, 8:52 AM
MegL Thank you. And I agree with you where serendipity is concerned.1
UK_Writer wrote on February 8, 2015, 8:59 AM
My father went off to the Hospital to get some results from some tests about which we knew nothing - when he came back it was a scorcher of a day and he said his car had run out of water/overheated 3x on his 20 mile journey home ... and now he was home he could tell us he had cancer. 3 months later he was gone Some get time, some don't - but it's better to stick around and help to make good/final days memories as your legacy than to leave people thinking/wishing that they could have done more for you
mrsmerlin wrote on February 8, 2015, 9:28 AM
Thank you for sharing this hun, I totally understand your instinct to take matters into your own hands. I have been there but for me it was who would find me that both fuelled and solved the problem. It is amazing how many friends drop from your life as well isn't it - I was talking to hubby about this last night. The one thing we must never, ever do though is forget that tomorrow is another day and it may be the one where the cure is hiding. x
CoralLevang wrote on February 8, 2015, 10:25 AM
I am so sorry to hear about your father. There never is enough time.
CoralLevang wrote on February 8, 2015, 10:31 AM
Thank you. And I know that wanting that dignity to go a certain way, or not go in that way, is a hot-bed of controversy. I know what it is like as a caretaker to watch someone go in the most undignified manner. I know how much that hurts. It is why that I think that there is a case to be made for the assisted suicide debate. I also know exactly what you mean by friends (and family) dropping from one's life. It really is a shame, but it's because they do not have the strength of character at that time to stick around. I get it. I made my own poor choices earlier in life myself.
As far as my situation, I can only say that medical professionals need to be more careful about how they say what they say, as it can have a profound impact on a patient's view. I have more accurate information and it changed the course of my life.
wolfgirl569 wrote on February 8, 2015, 11:22 AM
I am glad you got that phone call when you did. I know it had to be hard as I have lost a couple of family members to cancer and seen what it can do.
CoralLevang wrote on February 8, 2015, 12:18 PM
wolfgirl569 So, am I. Thank you so much for stopping by, and I'm sorry to hear of your losses. Hugs.
seren3 wrote on February 8, 2015, 1:58 PM
Saved by the bell so to speak! Isn't life weird and wonderful sometimes. I think every post I have read of yours, on any topic, has been filled with a gusto that is quite inspiring in and of itself.
I have come to close to not surviving a medical condition myself - but then something else happened! Mostly because of my good friend and writing partner Bodiemor .
CoralLevang wrote on February 8, 2015, 2:05 PM
seren3 What a very kind thing for you to say. I am humbled by your words.
I truly believe that knowledge is a higher power that makes sense to me. We get that knowledge through many different avenues. And yes, sometimes, it saves our lives. :)
BodieMor wrote on February 8, 2015, 3:19 PM
"Knowledge as a higher power..." Wow. I love that! And your inspiring article. You have come and are coming through so many trials with such grace and wisdom.
BarbRad wrote on February 8, 2015, 7:33 PM
I'm so glad you shared this story. And I'm so glad that woman called you. We never know what tomorrow will bring. That's why we need to live one day at a time. I'll be sharing this in many places.
GemOfAGirl wrote on February 8, 2015, 9:23 PM
What a wonderfully well-written piece about what was obviously a walk through the shadow of the valley of death! I'm glad you made a commitment, and I'm glad you don't go back on your word. I need about 10,000 "like" buttons for this. I'm looking forward to reading more.
CoralLevang wrote on February 9, 2015, 12:40 AM
Thank you, BodieMor ... I feel very blessed.
CoralLevang wrote on February 9, 2015, 12:42 AM
BarbRad Thank you...and I am glad, too. All we can do is live one day at a time. Thank you for sharing. I am humbled.
CoralLevang wrote on February 9, 2015, 12:44 AM
&VisionofHope Don't get me started on Drs. Ego and Narcissism !!! LOL
You are a priest? Like a Catholic priest? or?
There is another situation where I have had others share with me that my being somewhere kept them from doing something. I shall share soon.
CoralLevang wrote on February 9, 2015, 12:46 AM
GemOfaGirl Thank you so very much...Not going back on my word also made some other not-so-good situations happen, too about two weeks later...re: Dr. Ego. But I have to live with myself. More later...1
Hmmmm... 10K likes....I wonder how much that is on the coinage value. ROFL
cheri wrote on February 9, 2015, 2:01 AM
This is a very inspirational post from a woman so strong enough to admit the defeat and then managed to win back herself in the end.
CoralLevang wrote on February 9, 2015, 4:57 AM
Thank you, cheri ... I felt like a coward, not so strong,
Hollyhocks100 wrote on February 9, 2015, 8:26 AM
That´s just awful. When my dear late husband was told he had terminal cancer, the young doctor did his best to make light of it and that alone gave us hope, false hope for more years than he had, but hope none the less. What an arrogant unfeeling git your surgeon turned out to be, he should be struck off.
PeterChase wrote on February 10, 2015, 4:45 PM
Thanks for sharing your battle with cancer. Cancer is very prevalent in my family with many stories of survival and loss. It is the patients right to question any doctors opinion and seek a second opinion. Everyone is human, even doctors. Every profession has incompetence and also has professionals that are superior. We have to seek out and find the superior ones. My wife and I are in that position now with our health problems and think we have found someone to help us to achieve better health. I will write about this soon.
CoralLevang wrote on February 10, 2015, 11:18 PM
Yes, this is so true, Peterchase . Finding the right fit is important, no matter in marriage, with doctor, finding a job, etc. Thank you.
DWDavisRSL wrote on July 20, 2015, 7:31 AM
As I read this post I felt, I'm not sure how to describe it, touched deeply perhaps, yes, touched to my core by the raw honesty it took to write it and thankful that it was able to be written. What manner of coincidence caused Jessica to call that day, if it was a coincidence, may remain a mystery. But she dd the rest of us a service when she elicited that commitment from you.
CoralLevang wrote on July 20, 2015, 7:52 AM
DWDavisRSL Thank you so much for sharing this comment. You have brought tears to my eyes and they are rolling down my cheeks. It is my goal to share this with as many people as I can. The reality in this life is that we NEED to tell our stories. There are so many who feel alone, feel burdened beyond what they think they can take. We fear being seen as vulnerable. Are there some who have not stuck around? You betcha! But I think there are more who have felt this type of despondency, and have never spoken of it. Again, I thank you form the bottom of my heart.
DWDavisRSL wrote on July 20, 2015, 12:08 PM
You are most welcome, dear friend, if I may call you friend. I haven't had to face the big "C" but have lived with chronic paid for nearly twenty years now so I know something of what it means to endure. I don't tend to post about it much. The people close to me know and my wife is very supportive. She still expects me to push myself as far as I am able, though, which is a blessing for me.
CoralLevang wrote on July 20, 2015, 12:38 PM
DWDavisRSL Of course, you can call me a friend. I choose to post about the cancer as a way to build awareness for this particular one, and also to show people that they can get through anything with dignity. I shall even do my part to help any way I can. I'm glad that you have K to help you through whatever it is you face.1
allen0187 wrote on July 20, 2015, 8:17 PM
Thank you for sharing this very personal bit about you. I am inspired by the courage you have shown and you continue to have.
You are a blessing to the this site and to your family and loved ones CoralLevang .
CoralLevang wrote on July 21, 2015, 1:12 AM
Thank you, allen0187 ... We must all learn to have the courage to show others our true self. Thank you, again.