Years ago, when I was an actor, I performed in a play called The Shadow Box. The story is set in a cancer hospice and all of the patients are terminal. There are three stories that are told, an aging homosexual and his young lover, the middle-aged mother of three and her husband, and the elderly woman and her daughter. I played the young, gay lover. The play is based on the works of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, the pioneer in the field of dying. It was Kubler-Ross who identified the five stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. During he course of rehearsal we actually had the opportunity to meet Ms. Kubler-Ross. My first impression was of a diminutive, frail, women with more inner strength than any other human I had ever met. She walked into the room and filled it with her presence. Ms. Kubler-Ross stood about five feet tall and could not have weighed one hundred pounds. As she spoke to us after watching our show she was mesmerizing and enlightening. I was twenty-two years old when I met her and we spent only thirty minutes talking yet all these years later I still remember it vividly.
Unfortunately, I am continually reminded of that visit. Yet again, the phone has rung and another death watch has begun. In the past several years I have lost friends and relatives to kidney cancer, colon cancer , lung cancer and now two to melanoma. (This doesn't count the obesity and the heroin OD). Since my friend Kerry Daveline passed away eight years ago from melanoma I have participated in many melanoma benefits. Matter of fact we, the friends of Kerry, host a celebrity golf tournament each year in Woodland Hills, CA to raise money for melanoma research. I am frustrated however at the progress. Thirteen years ago my friend Kerry was diagnosed with melanoma. The options given to him by the medical community were simple, chemo (inerferon) and radiation. He lived five years after that diagnosis and that was considered to be excellent. Three months ago another friend, also Carrie, was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma. She has four to six weeks by doctor's estimations. When she was diagnosed she was given the same simple options. Chemo and radiation. Thirteen years had passed and there have been no appreciable advancements in melanoma detection or treatment. Outrageous!
The disease being what it is and our inability to figure it out notwithstanding, I am puzzled by the two different journeys of my two friends. Kerry had the opportunity to go through all five stages of grief and arrive at acceptance with time to spare. He traveled with his wife, emptied his bucket list and when he passed, other than still being pissed that he was going, left no regrets behind. Carrie has had that entire experience compressed into three months. Her bucket list, while not full, she is forty-five and has done much in her life, is far from empty. She has not had nor will she have the time needed to process through all five stages. She had no time to deny this curse before she was immersed in treatments. Her anger stage was short-lived as she got on a plane to Guatemala searching for the witch doctor to mix the lime with the coconut. (and why not? Nothing we could do for her here.) She knew that bargaining was useless for her so she has pretty much jumped to depression and is stuck there. Her acceptance will undoubtably come at the time of her passing. The difference between these two experiences boggles my mind. Which would I prefer, long, drawn out and painful with the chance to do and say everything that I need or short and painful with no chance to tie up lose ends? I don't know. With that in mind I say live every day as if it is your last, dance as though no one is watching, sing as if no one is listening and love everyone in you life each and every day. (If I missed any other bumper sticker philosophy that might apply, paste it here.)
At the end of the day, we have no control. Go where your life leads you and be happy. As a friend recently reminded, live well, it is the best revenge.
Causes Thomas White Supports
Kerry Daveline Memorial Golf Tournament for the Melanoma Society. http://www.hacknsmack.org/