I’m sitting in the hospital right now waiting while Bonnie undergoes a surgical procedure to make her treatments more convenient. My situation-my whole life-feels a little surreal. Cancer creates a lot of havoc in your life, but one thing that I never thought about is how strangely it forces you to deal with really horrible possibilities.
Last night as we were preparing for the surgery, Bonnie and I got talking about living will/end of life issues.
A: So you’ve said that you want a DNR (do not resuscitate) order later when we’re in Utah. What about tomorrow? What if you’re one of the statistically minuscule number of people who have serious complications in this surgery?
B: Tomorrow I definitely want to be resuscitated. I want to see all of our family.
A: Okay, what if you’re in a coma or something?
B: If my brain is dead, then let me die. That’s fine. I don’t really want to be kept alive if I’m a vegetable.
A: What about if you’re not a vegetable, but you have major personality changes or you lose like fifty or sixty IQ points? Should they take extraordinary effort to keep you alive at that point?
B: I have no idea. Do what you think is best.
A: Thanks. That sounds like a really fun decision to make.
Now take a second and think about this conversation. Really think about it. It’s horrible. Everything about it is horrible. Bonnie is discussing the imminent possibility of her own death or disability, and I’m talking about the possibility of losing the most important person in the world. Not just losing her, but of actually making the decision not to save her life. This is not a conversation that anyone ever wants to have, much less when they’re not even thirty.
This cancer just robs you of so many little things. There are so many injustices and indignities that Bonnie has to go through, while I sit helplessly on the sidelines, unable to protect her from the one thing from which she really needs protecting.
I think what really drives me crazy about this whole situation is that fact that I have to be relatively composed and calm about the actual decision. I have to be rational, because the only decision that I want control over-the only decision that really matters to me-is out of my hands. I can’t say, “I’ve decided that you’ll live and everything will be fine.” Once that’s gone, there are only bad decisions.
Choosing from a bunch of bad choices doesn’t feel like a choice at all.