Being sick makes excessive space for thinking, and excessive thinking makes room for thoughts of death. But I was always starving for experience, not its cessation, and, if the experience of thought was the only experience my body could give me beyond the one of pain, then opening myself to wild, deathly thinking had to be allowed. I warned my friends in a set of e-mailed instructions: Don’t try to make me stop thinking about death.
In the you-or-someone-in-your-family-has-cancer world there’s a social prohibition about talking about death. As though talking about death will kill you. Or as though admitting the possibility of death is somehow bursting a bubble of hope, letting the team down; “don’t talk that way.”
It took me a while to be able to say “when Catherine dies” out loud. But as soon as I did, the monsters receded just a bit, as I’d taken away some of the power they have from being unspeakable.