I am not Bowie


David Bowie was one of my favorite musical gods, don’t get me wrong. And I realize that he desired to lead a quiet life with his family in New York, unharassed by paparazzi and tabloids, which is why he hid the news of his illness from cancer from all but his very nearest friends and associates. But the press release announcing his death referred to his having fought a brave battle against cancer. Both things –hiding the diagnosis as though it were shameful, and viewing cancer as a battle or war to be fought – are completely contrary to the way I’ve treated my own cancer.

I’ve blogged before about not wanting to fight a war or wage a battle. I’m a lifelong pacifist who has watched too many friends fall to this disease, which they viewed as a struggle to be fought with every weapon at hand. Cancer-as-a-battle is a trope that I have turned my back on. And I don’t believe in cancer as a shame-to-be-hidden. I have told everyone I have encountered, cheerfully and without gloom, that I will soon be gone.

Instead of brooding darkly on my inability to change my fate in the face of this inexorable disease, and instead of hoping with false optimism that I’m going to live long enough for a cure to be discovered, I have done my best to maximize the satisfactions inherent in each additional ordinary day of life. I get up each morning knowing that I will probably not leave the house due to the frigid winter air mass outside, but finding happiness in simply being able to hang out all day in my lovely little ranch with its bright colors. I have a craft project I’m finishing up, and when it’s done I’ll start another one just to keep my hands busy. I have three books that I’m currently reading. I peruse the news of the day online. I look at Facebook, but I lurk silently more than I post anything. It’s just nice to see what my friends are up to, out in the world, untrammeled by disease.

Life is good, even the impaired life I’m currently leading. It’s good to still be able to eat. In fact it’s splendid news that I’m still able to eat, because this won’t last, so I make sure to enjoy each mouthful. I relish each minute of companionship when friends drop by to see me. I look out the windows when the winter sun emerges from behind cloud cover and marvel at the white sparkling quality of the snow on the ground and branches. I savor each minute of my life right now, and this is how I prepare for my impending death. Hopefully my death will be as good as my life for the past twelve years has been.

I’ve said it before, and will say it again now: despite having cancer, and despite the past twelve years being so generally excellent in general, the last twelve months of life with cancer have certainly been the happiest of my life so far in terms of daily happiness. I urge anyone else who has a new diagnosis to consider living well as the best way to respond to the challenge.

Bowie spent his last year dreading what was going to happen to him, and preparing music, drama and videos that all spoke of death and loss. If these things reflect the darkness and fear that turned over and over in his mind each day, then I am truly sorry for him. I only wish he could have experienced some of the happiness that I’ve discovered through cancer.

33 thoughts on “I am not Bowie”

  1. Carrol, you always delight me with your beautifully crafted use of language and your vision of life (and death). Miss seeing your lovely self in person, but your words are a gift.


    1. Thank you very much, Lynn! I wish I could write more often, but being on opiates blurs my ability to write well. Sometimes the clouds clear and the sun shines and my words come back to me, and I seize the moment. All best, Carrol

      Liked by 1 person

  2. YES. Brava for saying it out loud, Carrol. All of us, everyday–every moment, really–have a choice between giving in to fear or finding and building upon internal sources of fulfillment. The reflexive habit of looking outward for causes (for blame or celebration) seems to become more entrenched both in our selves & in our culture as we age. Sometimes it feels as though fighting against the temptations of egotism & self-reference is fighting the tide of popular culture. Your stand against it reinforces what I’ve seen to be true & helps me, Marianne

    Sent from my iPhone



  3. Cold facts plus sun filled heart and mind equal a warm wise woman. Thank you again, Carrol, for teaching us how to live.,.,.,.,.,.,. Love,


    Liked by 1 person

  4. We don’t know each other – though we have folk in common. Thank you for teaching in your gentle – non-judgemental way. I am deeply moved.


  5. This is such an excellent but yet equally uncharted point of view and I honestly hope that I will achieve being in this place in my mind and heart to experience life to the fullest. Thanks Carrol!


  6. Thank you so much Carrol, it is always wonderful to hear from you and to read a much needed blog post from you. I must admit when I learned of the news of David Bowie’s passing, I felt in a way like a childhood friend had passed on. I remember being in high school and learning about his music and the greatness he held and the albums he still had to create. As Will and I were watching his Space Odditity song the other night and learning of his age at that time I was like transformed myself but, then realized he was not that far from my E.’s own age. Thanks for sharing this blog. All the best and love to you..


  7. Loved your Bowie deconstruction!
    Just was sent this apparently new poem from Mary Oliver:

    The Fourth Sign of the Zodiac

    Why should I have been surprised?
    Hunters walk the forest
    Without a sound.
    The hunter, strapped to his rifle,
    the fox on his feet of silk,
    the serpent on his empire of muscles-
    all move in stillness,
    hungry, careful, intent.
    Just as the cancer
    entered the forest of my body,
    without a sound


  8. Carrol, you write so well and you think so clearly. It is a pleasure and an inspiration to read your thoughts. I’ve always thought that the battle metaphor was deficient–especially since the battle is one that will be lost eventually–and I thank you for articulating it so well. I don’t have cancer, as far as I know, but at my age death is no longer an abstraction. Your thoughts have helped me corral mine. Love and thanks to you, my dear.


  9. “the last twelve months of life with cancer have certainly been the happiest of my life so far in terms of daily happiness.” This is beyond wonderful. Not many are able to say this, healthy or not. Thank you again for so generously sharing your journey.


  10. How lovely to hear from you. Your trail blazing ideas vastly enrich my life and my own relationship to living and dying well. Thank you once again for sharing your wisdom.


  11. I just wanted to tell you what an inspiration you are, and I wish I had ‘stumbled’ upon you when my husband was going through his cancer. You are truly an amazing person and your outlook is so refreshing. I truly wish you every day filled with every once of happiness!!!!


  12. Timing… Wow! I am so grateful to have found your writings. I appreciate so much your open~ness and exposing the horrific realities of the medical business. Your decision to control what you can, the way you enjoy and appreciate life, your talent for writing, your gift of sharing ~ are so inspiring! Thank you Carrol!


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