How long am I going to live?



Posted September 30th, 2008 by Jane

I ponder this question quite a lot these days. And I really don’t know the answer. I’ve just completed my DLA application under the ‘Special Rules’. DLA is a non means tested benefit which terminally ill people can apply for under special rules..if we are not expected to live for more than another six months. Many people live on special rules much longer than this but the point is that if things go pear shaped yes I will be dead within 6 months…but hoping for longer.

I don’t ask my oncologist how long? The thing is she doesn’t know, no one knows, though I imagine the medics perhaps place bets on each patient..maybe accuracy is assessed during performance management. Sometimes if pushed consultants do proffer guesses though the ‘beat the oncologist what do they know game’ is not one I want to play. No one actually gets ‘given’ any amount of time to live. Only when its down to weeks and days can you really tell. Some people think that the games up if you start to speculate…oh that it were so simple.

In that ‘before’ life, before primary breast cancer, before 2003, in that old life where cancer wouldn’t happen to me world, I thought I’d live into my late 80s/90s. It was my birthright…maternal grandparents died at 91 and 92, my parents at 83 and 85. (Ah Jane, my auntie said…you forgot the genes on your father’s side….and so I had) I had never been more sure of anything…and then diagnosis, a poor diagnosis, a slow moving film of an eventual nasty breast cancer death..I expected to have at least 30 more years and suddenly I saw a year or two, maybe not even making my state pension.

Sometime between then and now I got used to the idea of an early death. I have talked about it, planned for it, incorporated it into the new landscappe of my life. I was never other than utterly realistic about my cancer..generally people with big locally advanced ’triple negative’ tumours and 23 cancerous nodes don’t survive breast cancer..they simply dont’ and those survivor stories of other people’s grannies and miracle aunties used to irritate me. I knew too many prematurely dead or dying women.

I have lasted longer than I expected…(and longer than ‘they’ reckoned in those early days) though a medic reminded me recently that that is no compensation. It’s not. I don’t do all that happy living life to the full stuff, gambolling and tripping through the country fields. I am still going to die of breast cancer and I hate it. Probably not this year..but there’s only 3 months left and I reckon I can make 3 months….state pension 6 months..probably….but the jury is out on the endowment policy which matures poorly next August or pays R. in full if I’m dead.