What would you do if you found out your days were numbered?
Would you quit your job and travel the world? Could you?
Would you speak more kindly to your family?
Would you finally learn to paint?
Would you write that book you have been meaning to write?
I have had to consider these questions deeply (and on the surface) for the past three years.
Almost exactly three years ago to the day, when I was 44, a doctor I had never met walked into the examining room where I sat, greeted me briefly and said (in the voice of Bill Lumberg from the movie Office Space), “Uh, yeah. I’ve seen the pictures you brought in, the MRA, and I just want to be up front about this. An aneurysm this size, on a woman your age. Look, you probably can’t expect to live much past 48.” In tears, for the most part, I missed the rest of his callous speech. He is the expert in the field, having literally written the textbook on how to do surgery on people with my disease; so it was hard for me to dispute his opinion. Then, to add insult to injury, he told me that because I was crying so much, I was probably depressed.
Wouldn’t you be?
He did do me a great service that day by making me very angry. I intend to prove him wrong.
So, knowing all these things, have I changed my life considerably? Well, yes and no. Even though I had just completed my Ph.D. and was optimistic about my job as a college professor at Northern Virginia Community College, I had to stop working. That was devastating.
I have gotten much closer to my family, and I try to remember to really look at them (I guess to memorize their faces for eternity) and understand them a little bit better than I ever have before.
My friends are a different story. It’s hard to keep in close contact with friends when you’re sick all the time, and you never know whether you will have to cancel plans because you just don’t feel well. But I’m making a real effort to socialize on different terms. I’ll talk more about that in an upcoming post.
After going through a period of real angst, though, I realized that I had a great deal of time on my hands to do what I had always wanted to do: write. Writing is very hard for me since I had my aneurysm. It takes a very long time. I had to go from writing a sentence a day to a paragraph a day to a page or two a day (I can’t do much more than that without becoming exhausted). But I don’t love it any less. I also have always wanted to learn to paint. So I took an online watercolor class with my friend John, and I found that I love to paint. Now I have a big box of paints and a number of books on the subject. I’ve framed some paintingsand given them as gifts (which means the poor recipients are stuck with them and have to hang them up).
So this is what I’m doing so far, 376 days and counting. I want to prove Dr. Mean wrong, but just in case….some days, as I try to finish my book, and I don’t feel well or don’t feel like writing, I tell myself, “Hurry, hurry…no time to spare.”