I am not afraid to die.
Once upon a time, I was. In preschool. For a reason unknown to me, it came up as a topic of conversation between my best friend Becky and me in the middle of the night during a sleepover. Snuggled in our sleeping bags in a tent made by sheets stretched over the empty space between the two beds in her room, we wondered what it would be like to die and decided we didn’t want to.
I still don’t want to die. I have too much left to do. There are so many places I’d still like to see — Ireland, Greece and Turkey were on the list with my best Belgian friend and travel buddy, Thandi, plus I long to visit Israel and connect more closely with the Jewish family. I want to grow in my Judaism. I wanted to keep my job at ISO — the absolute best job in the world — and possibly move up to editor or take the UN editorial and translation exams. I also want to appear on Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy! since I’ve been watching (and beating) them since I was six.
But I’m not afraid to die anymore. I’ve been in a coma three times now and I know it doesn’t hurt. You can’t tell that time is going by and you don’t know what’s going on around you. You just wake up a few days later, wondering why all of the sudden it’s not August 21st anymore.
What scares me the most is suffocating to death the way 65 Red Roses did. I’ve been afraid of suffocation since I was a little girl. Once, at daycare, the developmentally disabled sister of one of my classmates knocked me off my chair and tackled me to the ground. I could not shake her off as she was considerably larger than I. I didn’t even have enough breath to call out to the teacher, whose back was turned as she spoke to the girl’s mother. By the time they noticed what was going on and dragged her off me, my lungs were screaming for air and I was seeing stars. I had never been more scared in my young life, silently begging for them to notice and despairing when they didn’t.
Another time, my older cousin and I were playing, unsupervised, in my blue plastic Care Bears kiddie pool in the backyard. The water was only a few inches deep, but she managed to hold me face-down in it. Again, my lungs were screaming for relief, but I managed to throw her off me because she was so small. She didn’t understand why I wouldn’t get in the pool with her anymore…
So what I’m afraid of is suffocation. Which is a very real possibility, since the disease has spread to my lungs and my chemo is known for causing lung damage. But I also may die from seizures caused by the brain tumors, which I think would be preferable. Boom! You’re gone.
Just like a coma, only you don’t wake up.