Thoughts from the dying about living

Penny shares her thoughts

How are you dealing with your cancer diagnosis?

I’ve had my moments when I’ve been mad, and you have to allow yourself that. Once in a while, I wish there was a room where you could take some dishes and just throw them against a wall. Like, I feel like this today, and I’m going to break this, and then it’s OK. It would be a release. Well, that felt good!

It’s weird, some limitations, like not buying new things. It’s not realistic as I won’t be able to use them for long. But overall, it’s good to have a sense of humour about things. It will get you further. The time you have left, why waste is wringing your hands? As long as I can stay out of pain, then I’m good. I can’t have any more chemotherapy, I’ve run the gamut with that, so they give me injections.

The last couple of trips to my condo, it was getting me down a bit. But I realized I needed to be here [in the palliative unit] at this stage, and have someone to help me. It’s made me much happier being here.

I have a do not resuscitate (DNR) order. I don’t want to be on tubes and have that way of life. There is no outcome that’s going to change that.

Have you had a happy life?

For the most part, yes. I’ve been married and divorced twice. It might have been nice to have one partner all the way through, but if it wasn’t meant to be, it wasn’t meant to be. You have to speak up for yourself. You have to make yourself happy before anybody else can make you happy. If you’re not happy, you’re going to draw the negative to you.

How do you approach your days?

I’m glad I have this time. But in terms of the window, I hope I will have more time than they think I will have, just to enjoy myself and my surroundings. And to make sure people have the little trinkets I want them to have. It’s just hard giving up your clothes and your hair and what you used to do. All of the sudden it’s like, well, there’s not much point in that now. So I stopped wearing my wigs. I’ve always tried to change my appearance, and even now, I just put a little eye makeup on. I just do what makes me feel how I need to feel.

The only thing I miss is having a cold beer once in a while!

Do you have advice for others on living a good life?

Kids especially need to get off their phones. There’s a whole world out there, and you need to open yourself up and embrace it. Every day is precious, and people need to realize how precious it all is. And just talk to people!

How can friends and family help during this stage of life?

I don’t mind visitors most of the time, it can be nice. More than anything, people need to make sure they are being true to themselves first. And learn to accept reality and make their own peace. I think it’s a relief when you finally say the words out loud, that you won’t be here for a long time. And after that, everything gets better.

What’s next?

Whatever’s on the other side, I’m not going to be afraid of it. I heard it said that when we pass, we have to go through our journey first to see what we have been through before we get to go into our new being. I thought, that does make sense. Nobody ever sends a signal back, but I do think there is something there. I’m not afraid. You’re just going on another journey. Life has other plans sometimes. Everybody is going to die. We shouldn’t be afraid of it, it’s just how we chose to do it and face it. I do believe in God, even though I haven’t gone to church and stuff, I still know he is there.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

» Learn about this project and view more perspectives