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Pie in the Face

by Lynn Scozzari

Most of us think we have all the time in the world while walking this earth, especially when we're younger. Even when we start to gray and wrinkle, we think that death is way down the road -- off in the distance somewhere. It's a destination we'll all eventually reach, but we attempt to distance ourselves from its inevitability. Or, at least that's how I felt, until recently.

Old people and more likely, older-looking people aren't very welcome in our society. We put our elderly in homes where we can conveniently go visit when WE wish. We pump our lips and wrinkles full of substances to make us look more youthful and farther away from descriptions like older and aged. We attempt athletic feats to assuage ourselves that our lungs, muscles and tendons are still in working order, removing ourselves, albeit temporarily, from being described as decrepit or immobile. Who me, age? Who me, get older? Who me, die?

Well, frankly my dear, yes. We can pretend to be like Scarlett and think about it tomorrow. But, tomorrow comes for us one day whether we like it or not. It's always waiting for us. Sometimes it's closer than we think or like to admit. Sometimes it sneaks up, sometimes it smacks us pie-in-the-face without the humor or yummy whipped topping. See, even as I write this I am referring to "tomorrow" instead of using the word death.

This cancer diagnosis has done that to me-- smacked me in the face to the reality that death waits for us all and sooner than we think, or at least would prefer. I don't mean to sound morose, but death and my own personal mortality has entered my mind a bit more (okay, a lot more) since February 6, 2012 the day of my diagnosis.

Despite my optimistic, some may say rosy-red, Pollyanna attitude, reading about Stage IV breast cancer is really pretty discouraging. There's a website for metastatic cancer (of course there is) and I guess it's pretty much a death sentence according to most people. It's just a matter of time. I must be in denial. I go with what my doctor said to me upon telling me the news, that while it's not curable, it is treatable and it is still likely in 20 years or so I'll die in my sleep an old woman. Why not? Good as way as any to go peacefully into the next world.

As I contemplate which treatment options I'll endeavor, the statistics about death will inevitably be suggested and offered as perspective. Take this drug and decrease the risk of mortality by such and such a percentage. Do this amount of radiation and your chances of living past "x" number of years without disease progression is this amount. I'm not sure I'm ready to hear those percentages and those projections.

I keep reminding myself that while this whole cancer business is one of statistics and numbers, I'm not a statistic. I refuse to reduce my life to a percentage or a number, even if others want to quantify my prognosis in that manner. That's the wrench in machine -- attitude. I believe it will skew the results of your study, your statistics, your possible outcomes. Attitude and state of mind is the truly unknown in this whole cancer soup recipe. It's not measurable. It's not quantifiable. It's not predictable either. From one person to another attitude is the variable. And, even if a positive attitude doesn't prolong my life, at least it will be a more enjoyable space to live in. It's much better than being the host at my own pity party, dreading each day or writhing on the floor in a fetal position somewhere crying my eyes out.

A lifelong writer, Lynn Scozzari lives in Southern California with her husband, teenaged son, and five animals. Despite her diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer in 2012, Lynn has continued to maintain an active lifestyle as an endurance athlete with plans to run her 5th marathon in 2013. To read more about her journey through cancer visit http://tentwenty-six.blogspot.com.