Living with an incurable cancer means, above all, having to face the
idea of dying. For religious people, the concept of an afterlife may or
may not provide comfort. For an atheist like myself, there is only the
blackness of the void. In childhood, there is a trust that one will
live forever, and I find myself becoming, in effect, a trusting child
again, at least transiently. However, repeated visits to a “cancer
clinic,” reminding me that I have a fatal condition, don’t help.
Besides death, I worry about dying, and what this will be like: massive
hemoptysis, severe breathlessness, or simply progressive weakness and
wasting, ending up like one of the emaciated souls I meet at the clinic
being pushed in a wheelchair. My reaction to my encounters here has
undergone a change from pained embarrassment at possibly meeting
previous patients (this is a small city), to a friendlier feeling of
riding in a train going to the same place with my fellow humans.