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.
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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
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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
Image Credit » http://pixabay.com/en/nightmare-cry-shout-woman-despair-364838/