The undiscovered country

ergoI regret to share the fact that my cancer has returned. In actuality it never really went away. Because I’m in such good health overall, my oncologist offered me another round of chemo, which I will probably refuse (I’m about 95% certain, but some doubt remains). I figure that if the chemo didn’t work before, it will work no better this time around, and would at best afford me another month or two of life in return for making me far weaker and more miserable when my end comes. I feel fairly certain that the proper course of action is simply to let go.

I’m not depressed or morose or fearful. As I was last year during my initial treatment for cancer, I’m quite calm and collected. I ACCEPT what is going to happen to me. My oncologist congratulated me for skipping the first four of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s five stages of dealing with grief (anger, denial, bargaining, depression) and going straight to the finish line of “acceptance.” “I don’t get a lot of patients like you,” he told me. Apparently I am an enlightened being, which pleases me to some small degree. 😉

If the cancer progresses with the same speed it did last year, I reckon I have four to ten weeks left. And I’m good with that. All things considered, I think of myself as an incredibly fortunate human being. I’m glad that I lived to see another beautiful spring. I’m glad to be loved by my parents and brother.  I’m grateful that I had Frank and Miles in my life. I’m glad that I lived long enough to finish writing my time-travel teen romance novel. I’m glad I managed in the course of my lifetime to evolve from an insecure and unhappy person into a confident and happy one. I am very thankful for my many dear friends, who know who they are. Most of all, I’m simply glad that I lived at all.

My grandmother told me once that although she belonged to no formal religious group, she believed very strongly that in order to have a good life, you must leave the world in better condition than you found it. I have tried to do this very thing by means of my newspaper column, which often educated readers about energy efficiency, green construction, solar retrofits, self-sufficiency, vegetable and fruit gardening, and sustainability. I have devoted significant time to volunteering in my community and I have always practiced kindness to others. If my grandmother were still alive, I hope that she would be proud of what I have accomplished.

If I had any advice for others, it would be this: Seize the day. Breathe deeply and pay close attention to all the countless beauties of the world around you. Take good care of your friendships, and thank people whenever possible. Practice warmth and courtesy. Protect the earth, which is under assault from all directions.  Most of all, enjoy yourself, because although it might seem endless right now, life is indeed very finite.

I’ve enjoyed my own trip through life vastly. Have you? If not, it’s never too late to begin.

With love,

Carrol

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36 thoughts on “The undiscovered country”

  1. Carol, I think your Grandma would be Very proud you. I know I would be if you were mine! I feel very lucky to have shared a wee bit of this journey with you . Thank you for sharing, Barb Metz

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  2. Your grandmother’s words certainly hold true to you-to leave the world a better place. You add beauty to the world by your writing, your family, your house and garden, by your very being. Much love, Jan

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  3. You, you you! I love you CAK. You amaze me.And you’re quite the inspiration, have been to me since the allen building and dining al fresco and so much more. Of course you’re even doing cancer with class and dignity, intelligence and fervor. xxo Liz

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  4. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, feelings, and wisdom, Carrol. I take your message to heart and pray that I can stay the course as you have. It is a remarkable journey, this life, and gratitude is all. I know that even though I often forget it. You are an inspiration to me as a writer and a woman. I am grateful for your kindness and support with my transition to your beloved HOMES section of the Herald-Times. In my head all always be asking myself, “What would Carrol do?” I think I’ve gotten to know you well enough that your sage advice will always be there. Love you.

    Lee

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  5. Beautiful, heartbreaking, inspiring. You’ve set a high bar for the rest of us. I’m sure that your courage and sublime acceptance is inevitably tempered by the sadness of time lost with Frank and Miles. You are a wonderful wife and mother, and working with Miles this year has made me realize what a special and strong person he is. You must be very proud. Much love, Glenn

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  6. Your insight has moved me to tears. I feel fortunate to have met you by you featuring our home in your column. The world is indeed better from you participating in it. You have left it golden.
    Love, Patricia

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  7. Carrol, Thank you for among all your creative gifts, your wisdom, hard-earned and so beautifully and directly expressed. Hamba kahle. xo Alexandra

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  8. Although we never met each other, you have been an inspiration. I never missed a HOMES article and your blogs are wonderfully honest and inspired. Thank you for being so out spoken about your cancer and for sharing your truly spiritual, courageous and joyous life. I will miss you when you go!
    Betsy

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  9. Exquisitely stated, Carrol. Peace to you on this and the next journey. I will take your wisdom to heart and hope to live with half the grace as you. Thank you.

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  10. Dear Carrol,
    I just read your blog on Facebook and want you to know that you’ve been an eagerly awaited presence in my life on so many Saturdays. I’m a fan who finally met you or maybe was shown who you are at this year’s Bloomingfoods annual meeting. I’ve enjoyed and collected your writing and photographs in the HT for years and was so impressed by your doing that instead of (was It?) lawyering. You and your subjects are great role models for living a beautiful and meaningful life.
    Now that I’ve learned your latest thoughts, I thank you for sharing and caring so broadly and deeply. Your life’s work and vital spirit are great gifts, far reaching and ever expanding. I’m so happy the crocuses, daffodils and birds are back and wish you many pleasant surprises. I feel that endless wisdom, joy and love are your legacy to your family and friends, many you’ve never met. Thank you for enriching my life, Bloomington and beyond.
    Wendy Bernstein

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  11. Thank you, Carrol, for the strength you show, the wisdom, the acceptance. You do leave this world better for your being in it. A shining example for us all. Your grandmother was a wise woman, you are as well. I have read your blogs with enjoyment and have learned a lot. Again, thank you, for sharing with us.

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  12. My mother made the opposite choice. She was 59 and I know she wanted to live longer. We all wanted her to live longer. How I wish she’d been able to accept the medical reality, gotten good palliative care and spent some time with her beloved sister out in the country. She took a chance and had aggressive treatment. The chemo was too much for her and the result sure not what I would have chosen for her or for anyone.

    Having worked in Hospice care, I have seen people live longer than expected and pretty comfotably, able to enjoy time with loved ones, to see seasons change outside the window, to have a nice cup of tea or to nap lightly with NPR on the radio.

    I appreciate every day we have you, and I’d like to have you here with us every day that it’s good for you to be here.

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    1. Thank you for writing, Garbo. Several people told me that second rounds of treatment did not benefit their loved ones, which is why I wrote that I would not contest my own imminent death. Today we went to speak with a second opinion doctor in Indy who persuaded me to try a limited round (3 treatments) of a chemo that does not have as many adverse reactions as the ones I was on last year. I did this because my family wanted me to at least try, and the adverse effects seemed minimal, all things considered. The end result is likely to be the same in the end, but I won’t object, as I do not object now. I am truly sorry that your mother passed in pain and discomfort. I appreciate each day I’m here, and I appreciate that we’re still in touch after so many years. 🙂

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