Hypothetical bus of death

Irridescent tour bus in Stratford-upon-Avon.
If I must die by bus impact, I choose this one.

Well-intentioned people thoughtfully remind me I don’t know when my life will end or even if I will die of cancer. The Hypothetical Bus of Death, which runs over so many (hypothetically), could end my life tomorrow morning, instantly removing all my uncertainties and anxieties, replacing them with certitude and serenity.

The first pastor I talked to about my cancer diagnosis was one of these well-intentioned people. “None of us knows when we will die or how. You could get hit by a bus tomorrow,” he said. I don’t like being told I could be hit by a bus tomorrow. It irks me. It is yet another way to minimize cancer by making it indistinguishable from any other path through life. Yes, all paths through life end in death. But not all paths feel the same.

When I get in my car to drive to my oncologist, I don’t think about being in a fatal accident. I am not overwhelmed with nested Interims of Unknowing related to driving on shared roads with other drivers of dubious skill and levels of distraction or sobriety. I simply drive there, Joe Bonamassa blaring on my stereo, and think about things other than probabilities of traffic fatalities or how my actions could tip the probabilities in my favor.

Cancer, in contrast, commands my attention. The treatments are expensive, often painful, and accompanied by noxious side effects. Insurance, not to mention Social Security, offers a tenuous safety net in continual need of mending. Choosing a medical provider can be a life-or-death decision, and there are so many to choose from. My cancer is terminal, or as the doctors prefer to say, “incurable but treatable.” If I don’t treat it, I die quickly. If I do treat it, I will die less quickly. These Unknowings are more momentous than whether to take the Interstate or a secondary road to drive to my next support group meeting. And when I cross a busy street downtown, I am never on the lookout for the Hypothetical Bus of Death.

8 Replies to “Hypothetical bus of death”

  1. What can I say? Only another who is going through a similar situation can really understand what you go through…and it still isn’t YOUR experience. Thank you for trying to help the rest of us see a little clearer. I’m so sorry you always have this cloud that is cancer looming over you and interfering with life. It makes me very sad. But what can I do? What CAN I do?

  2. I smiled when one of your friends called you Irony Man. You got me again with that Bus!

    Yesterday I passed a wrecked car on the side of the road. I recognized it as my friend’s, and I saw her husband smiling and talking to the tow truck driver. So I figured things were not serious. I texted her. She’s ok. But she fell asleep while driving to my house! I felt kinda guilty. That doesn’t make sense—I didn’t even know she was coming over. But that woman has an incurable diagnosis, too, and has escaped many HBD’s (three) within a mile of my house.

  3. This makes total sense. Even my recent “scare” was sobering. I thought, “If they hadn’t found it, I would die—of Melanoma.” I knew how I would die! I made peace with the thought, but the emotion was real. Thanks for this post.

  4. I admire your courage and frankness with dealing with this. I often think about you and others I know dealing with this disease when I deal my daily ‘really not so bad’ stressors in comparison . I like the Irony Man somebody mentioned. Also like the ‘Bus of Death’ analogy as I do find myself more and more mindful of it as I get older. Sometimes the bus beeps and you turn to see it coming at and cant get out of the way other times it just nails you completely unaware.

  5. Irony Man came out of a group text conversation with my cancer support group (which can be active 24/7). Someone asked what each of our superpowers were. Easy answer for me: Irony. After that, I became Irony Man, which is more accurate, though less amusingly sarcastic, than the nickname I was given one week when I missed the group meeting: Sunshine. Sadly, the man who so dubbed me died six days ago from glioblastoma. He was 35, left behind a wife and 3yo daughter, and had “walked” (via wheelchair) earlier this month to receive his Ph.D. in history from UT-Knoxville. Still hard for me to think about.

    Unsurprisingly, of the four support group members who have died since I joined, none died after being struck by a bus. They all died, directly or indirectly, of their cancer.

  6. Your post made me think of an article I read as a young mother to prepare me visit a friend. She had just delivered a baby girl and the doctors gave them the news their baby had Down’s syndrome. The article gave me wonderful advice. One that I have used time and again is NEVER to say, ” I understand” because we never can. In this “run down by a bus” is as you write so well is not your main worry! Another lesson learned. Ebby & I do pray regularly for you.

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