Sleepless in Dallas

Today is my 49th birthday, but that's not what kept me from falling back to sleep at 5 a.m. It was the same fear that many have: the fear of dying before I'm ready to go. There are so many things I want to do. I need time to get my affairs in order; mend a few relationships; fulfill some long-held dreams.

As we get older, we seem to spend more time considering our mortality. How will death come? Peacefully and painlessly, as it did to my paternal grandmother? She lived a long life and died in her sleep. Will death come violently and suddenly, as it did to my father? He died choking on his own blood. Will death come gradually and mercifully, as it did to my maternal grandmother? Her slow, steady decline was capped by endless hours at the hospital.

It is perhaps an occupational hazard that, as editor of a cancer magazine, I often lie awake wondering if cancer will come my way. One out of every two men in America will get cancer in his lifetime. Will it be me or the guy I'm sitting next to on the bus? Maybe he's already had cancer. So will it be me or the security guard in the lobby of our building? It's a maddening game of chance. One that sometimes keeps me awake.

I haven't improved my odds. I'm overweight. I don't exercise. I enjoy cocktails before dinner. I drink wine at meals and beer during yardwork. I was exposed to second-hand smoke throughout my childhood. I had terrible sunburns during my youth. I was exposed to asbestos on a construction project in college. Is my immune system strong enough to do what it was designed to do? Or is my body a ticking timebomb? There are simply too many variables to know whether I will be "the one." People who've had cancer aren't alone in fearing its return visit. Cancer is an unwelcome guest in every home.

As I celebrate another year of life, one thing is clear: I'm grateful to be a part of the CURE family. If a cancer experience is in my future, I'll draw inspiration from the many patients and survivors I've encountered who were absolutely determined to live as best as they could.

Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the General Discussions CURE discussion group.
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