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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

In Reply

The New York Times published a piece Sunday on its Anxiety blog entitled "You Are Going to Die." (And then a thousand hypochondriacs whispered, "I knew it!")

Side note: You should probably not be surprised that I read a blog called Anxiety.

It's a really interesting post about the way we hide from aging. We deny it in ourselves, and tuck the elderly away in odd little communities in remote, vaguely undesirable locations. I once visited an assisted living facility in Fort Lauderdale, and was made uneasy by the fact that dozens of buzzards were circling above. Maybe something about the landscaping of that vast estate made for lots of thermals for the birds to ride. Or maybe they could just smell the imminent death.

You could say the same thing about the way we deal with illness. For as many medical dramas that line the networks' evening schedules, we aren't really interested in knowing about real human sickness. In the case of breast cancer, we prefer the glossy pink ribbon to the IV tube.

As a person with cancer, I've experienced this first hand. The conversations that begin with an emphatic "How ARE you?" and end with the eyes of the asker glazing over. Cancer has the rare distinction of being both terrifying and incredibly boring. The fact that I am in my 20's only compounds this, especially when it comes to other people my age.

When we are young we are used to reaching for the life affirming, the beautiful. We commit fully to the idea of having a future. We fall in love, start and restart our life's work, have babies. What we do not do, in the infancy of our adulthood, is die. Especially drawn out, sad, wasting type deaths, which cancer promises over and over.

So I get it. No I be wants to be reminded of that dark cloud way off in the distance. It's scary and it fucking sucks to watch a peer be confronted with death, that most unwelcome of drinking partners. But consider for a moment: it sucks just a little bit more for the person actually going through it. So buck up, confront your issues with mortality on your own time, and be there for your friend. It's good for you both.

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