Reflections on Mortality

A funny thing happens when you’re confronted head-on with your own mortality: suddenly you can’t help but reflect on your life, who you’ve been, the decisions you’ve made, and the legacy you leave behind. 

One of the gifts type 1 diabetes gave me when I was diagnosed at 17 was a sense of urgency about wanting to live a life of purpose and to make a difference in the world. At the time, with diabetes management being as primitive as it was, I was warned about diabetes-related complications and shortened life expectancy, so I figured “I’m here for a good time, not a long time” and that has been an element running in the back of my mind for the past 33 &1/2 years. Thankfully, with technology advances and diabetes management tools like insulin pumps and Dexcom CGM (continuous glucose monitoring) – I am still healthy and thriving, even with a broken pancreas. 

And then just this past December, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. It turns out I have both papillary thyroid carcinoma, and a Tall Cell variant which is more aggressive. Suddenly the idea of my “expiration” has gotten a whole lot more real. I’m currently waiting on the results of tests & scans from “additional findings” following radioactive iodine treatment (and 2 surgeries earlier this year) – and it could go either way. It could be good news, or it could be additional surgery or treatment, or who knows what?! The WAITING has been excruciating. But oddly, I find myself at peace – ready to accept whatever comes. I just want to know, one way or the other.     

What I DO know is that I have done EVERYTHING in my power to fight this thing, and there isn’t more I could do. I have left no stone unturned. Between cleaning up my diet and eliminating sugar and alcohol, trying to keep my body in an alkaline state, green juicing, weekly high-dose Vitamin C IV’s, 3x weekly mistletoe injections, being consistent with sleep and exercise, stress reduction, energy healing, hypnotherapy, prayer, maintaining my sense of humour, and keeping my mind focused on positive and uplifting things – I’ve been doing a “full-court press” to eliminate whatever cancer is there and to allow my body to heal and return to a healthy state. 

Once you’ve done everything you can, you can only surrender to the outcome which is up to the effectiveness of your treatment, your actions, and to God. While I am not a religious person, my faith in a higher power has been substantially strengthened with the belief that there is a reason for all of this – even if I don’t know what that is yet. And let me tell you, for someone like me who likes having a plan and being in control, “letting go” and “going with the flow” has not been easy. Even though cancer is scary, there is no point dwelling on things that haven’t happened yet, so I’ve been laser-focused on the mantra of “one day at a time” and staying as present as I can in the now.

The only thing any of us knows for sure is that at some point, each of us is going to die. Whether you live a short life or a long life, I think one of the greatest gifts you can ask for is to have peace of mind whenever it’s your time to go. And I have that. I genuinely like the woman I’ve become, am proud of how I’ve treated people and how I move through the world. And I couldn’t be more grateful to have work that matters, serving my diabetes community. My legacy will be reflected in the lives of the people I’ve been able to help and inspire over the years – in big ways and small.

No matter your position or status in life, I truly believe in my heart of hearts that each of us has the opportunity to leave the world a better place, one person and interaction at a time. Whether it be a smile, a thank-you card, a compliment, a conversation, a comment of encouragement, or an act of kindness – it’s a connection with another human being, and you never know how that can impact somebody’s life on any given day. There are so many people who have had a profound impact on my life’s journey from the time I was very young, and the best way to honour them is to pay it forward – and I feel like I’ve done that.

Finally, I have to say a surprise revelation from this journey with cancer has been a profound sense of GRATITUDE. It is not lost on me how lucky I am to live in Vancouver (a.k.a. Heaven on Earth!), to have such strong family support, to have a dream team of medical professionals looking after me, to have such an extraordinary boss and colleagues who stand by me, to have a job with medical insurance, and to be surrounded by so much love and support from more people than I could have imagined. Although I am single and initially felt a little freaked out to be dealing with all of this on my own, through this journey I’ve discovered that I have more love in my life than I even knew. I have been blessed beyond measure.

I saw a quote on Instagram recently that really stuck with me:

“Gratitude helps you fall in love with the life you already have.”

Don’t wait until it’s too late to become the person you’ve always wanted to be. Tell the people you love that you love them. Don’t waste time fretting about things you can’t control and take responsibility for the energy and mindset you bring to each day. Life is short. Make it count. And may you have peace at the end of your days.