The Funny Thing About Death

No one ever told me I was going to die. We weren’t stupid. It was pancreatic cancer. We knew right away my chances were poor.

A few years ago I was put in the unenviable position of considering my own mortality. I’m reminded today as John McCain ends his fight against brain cancer.

No one ever told me I was going to die. We weren’t stupid. It was pancreatic cancer. We knew right away my chances were poor.

Even finding out I was eligible for the Whipple, something in retrospect I didn’t quite understand, was only likely to be a short life extension, not a fix.

You want to know how serious it was? I prepared a list of my passwords for Helaine.

This post’s title promises funny. Not ha ha funny. This is strange funny.

Death didn’t scare me. Not at all. That’s the funny thing. I’m still surprised to say that because before cancer it definitely did.

I was scared of the treatments and pain I’d have to go through. Those were planned. It was easy to lose a night’s sleep worrying about what they’d do to me the next morning.

Death sneaks up on you… or so I hoped.

As it turns out my doctor’s were fabulously successful. Every indication is I’m the patient they should put on their CV. They were skillful. I was lucky.

My fears of pain weren’t misplaced. I tolerated it better than feared. We put up with a lot of shit when we have to.

It never came to the point where the pain wasn’t worth it. That’s where John McCain is today. That is sad.

Part of the reason death didn’t scare me was my life was in order. I was in a good place. My family and friends knew where I stood with them. My hope is the same is true for Senator McCain and that he doesn’t fear death.

16 thoughts on “The Funny Thing About Death”

  1. Geoff,
    I like your testimony. You have courage. A lot of courage. Something that some folks do lack. I’m glad that you are in remission. Hope it stays that way.

  2. It’s so sad that John McCain has to die like this after all he has been through! Geoff, you were one of the very lucky ones to survive pancreatic cancer and you know it.

  3. When you were diagnosed my husband was given a diagnosis of thyroid cancer at the same time. It’s the good cancer, they said. We were hopeful. Sadly, it wasn’t. My Jeff passed away within a year of diagnosis. You sir, are so fortunate in life it’s all attitude. My Jeff was 67 with an amazing outlook…you are correct, luck plays into it.

  4. “My fears of pain weren’t misplaced. I tolerated it better than feared. We put up with a lot of shit when we have to.”
    It is amazing what we can tolerate when we have no other choice. Having cancer made me a stronger person…someone I never knew I could be.

    “It never came to the point where the pain wasn’t worth it. That’s where John McCain is today. That is sad.”
    This is very sad. Sad when you come to realize there is no winning, no hope of surviving.

  5. Well said Geoff!
    I had a close call with death 17 years ago and escaped that fate. Was fortunate to find my way to some great physicians who were able to properly assess and repair a mitral valve issue. I’m so grateful. In some sense I feel like I miraculously won many bonus rounds in the game of life.

  6. A touching and realistic writing of something all of us must one day face. You had courage to go up against the odds. And won. I only hope that Senator McCain has a peaceful, and largely pain-free transition. He is a warrior that deserves nothing less.

    1. It is not courageous. It’s a mistake to think that. Anyone can do what I or Senator McCain did as patients.

      I’m sure Senator McCain would agree. We want people to know you can deal with the treatment. And if at some point you can’t, as is the case today for Senator McCain, you still have options.

      1. Again, Geoff, a compassionate, understanding of Senator McCain’s decision. I remember my mom’s decision to stop treatment.

  7. I thank God you are well, and it hurts my heart for Senator McCain and his family. God bless them all as they walk this path- he is a real hero.

  8. Geoff:
    You are correct in your thoughts about dying. None of us are prepared to die, no matter what
    illness affects us!! You were one of the fortunate ones, thank goodness. However while it was
    all going on your mindset was thinking, “am I going to die”! John McCain has had an agonizing
    time with his war wounds and then this happens and John finds out there is no cure, no chemo,
    no drugs that will help any longer. So being the Hero he is, He takes it like any other battle, knowing that the loss of this battle is inevitable. Most of US Love John McCain!! I pray his last days are pain
    free and God watches over him!!!

  9. Thank you for such a kind perspective on Senator McCain’s illness.
    He was seldom a favorite of mine because of my vastly differing politics. However he was always a survivor POW and as such, I admired in him a strength I did not possess.

    He became more than that with his famous thumbs-down motion on Trump’s attempt to dismantle Obamacare. He is now a hero who deserves our respect. Trump’s lack of empathy disgusts me and I dream of the day when he is a mere footnote in our country’s history. I am reminded of Shakespeare’s observation that “he jests at scars that never felt a wound.” Trump is a petulant spoiled child who does not know what it means to suffer or, because of his pathology, to even be uncomfortable.

    I, too, join with you in wishing him peace and ease when the end comes.

  10. Geoff,
    I hope that when I’m faced with ineveitable conclusion of death as you were, I could face it the fearlessness that you’ve showed. May you and your family continue to enjoy each other for manny more years to come. God Bless You And Yours Geoff.

    Frank S.

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