We could have a discussion for days as to whether or not it’s better to know or not when your days on this earth are coming to an end. Most of us don’t get to choose, in the end, and we all have to play the hand we’re dealt.
These 17 people are all too aware that their clock is counting down, so if you’re curious how they’re spending their last days, check out their answers below.
17. Try to appreciate the good things.
I have kidney failure and am being kept alive with dialysis for now. A transplant will improve things but I’ll still probably have a shorter life span than most.
I still work full time and do fun stuff when I can. I’m taking a day trip with my husband today. I took tomorrow off too so I can rest.
Mostly that’s what’s different – I have to be at home at night for 12 hours for dialysis and I get tired easily so I don’t get out much on the weekdays either.
I was very upset about everything for about 2 years after diagnosis and I’m still hating it most of the time but I try to appreciate the good things that I would miss if I weren’t here.
16. There’s no “should.”
My days are a mixed bag. Some days i don’t want to get out of bed, and when i do i can’t seem to find the energy to leave the house.
Those days are pretty rare though.
I try and get out and walk every day. I have tumors all over my spine so when things go really bad for me, my legs will probably be first to go. I catch up with friends regularly and i find the time to visit them.
More importantly, I try and remind myself that there is nothing that i should be doing. When i was told that i was dying and that it could be in only a few months, my family took me on a holiday. My parents had me move home with them (that didn’t last), i did a big road trip.
Then the sentimental. There were portraits with every family member. There were plans of my writing a book. I intended on writing a pamphlet for one of the cancer charities, because there is no pamphlet that says “so you’re going to die”.
I was going to put together playlists and plan my will and write letters to everybody that i’ve ever known. I was going to burn everything of mine that i don’t want found by somebody after my passing and return everything that I’ve ever borrowed.
Give away everything in person that I would prefer not be allocated away by a lawyer and a will. I still need to catch up with uncle Ron and i want to see the desert one more time and….
But i don’t need to do that. I don’t need to. This is my time, and it took me a lot of dying before i could take a deep breath and let go of the stress of living. Sometimes the best thing for me to do is crack a beer and watch some TV and not feel guilty about it. It’s easy to feel like you absolutely need to make each day count, but if i’m happy, i’m happy.
Edit – Thankyou for all of your wonderful responses, i really appreciate it. By the way, i don’t want to give the impression that all i do is drink and watch TV. I do get out and visit people, explore, i watch bands and am getting into Magic: the gathering. It just took some time before i decided that it was ok for me to “waste” some of my time with a beer and a remote and not feel guilty about it.
15. It definitely puts things into perspective.
I’m 30 and I have chronic cancer, but it (hopefully) shouldn’t effect how long I live. It definitely puts things into perspective in my life. Daily, I live in the moment as much as possible. I really try to be present. I try and push myself out of my comfort zone as much as possible. Even in small ways, like dying my hair for the first time.
Being a young adult with cancer is hard, but there is an amazing community out there. But it’s hard to be around people my age that are dying. It hits me deep down. My friend Jenni died in August, she was featured on a podcast.
I’m listening to it for the first time and sitting here crying. I think this maybe answers your question a little bit. Life goes on, you just find your new normal.
14. Just living is hard.
53 year old woman, ALS. Rapidly progressing. Everyday I get worse, couldn’t get my shirt on today. I tend to get up (which is a struggle) get dressed and then sit at my computer here for an hour or so in the morning. Hang out on my couch and read and watch tv. And if the weather is nice, roll out onto my porch to read in the sunshine.
Not really enough strength and energy to eat, though I am being yelled at for losing weight. No pain, for which I am thankful, but unable to do most things we take for granted. I have T-Rex arms now, probably won’t be able to walk or stand in the next few weeks. I am working hard to get the prescription for Death with dignity—this is not how I want to live, have had time to get my affairs in order which is good, but this sucks.
I got the neuro the other day to say I have less than 6 months,I think I’ll be luck to make it to Christmas, more like early November at this rate. I don’t want to live like this anymore.
13. You’ve just gotta get on with it.
I am 40, have stage 4 breast cancer and I have been told I will die. My initial diagnosis was stage 4, metastasised to my spine and liver. The thing is I am currently stable and feel perfectly fine. I may die in 6 months or in a decade, but apart from the cancer thing, I am otherwise healthy.
For the first 18 months it was all I could think about, it influenced everything around me, I did the big expensive trip, connected with old friends, etc. But after I did all that nothing changed. I still go to work every day, I go to the gym, I visit friends, I have the occasional beer, I am renovating a house, and being single I am out and about dating. Because I feel fine I manage to forget most of the time.
I am constantly asked why I still work. Well I have to eat and put a roof over my head, plus what else am I going to do? I can’t be on holidays for what could be the next 10 years. My treatment is different to what most people understand with cancer. With early cancers they go in guns blazing, chop bits out and pump you full of nasty chemos to try and beat it. With advanced cancer they are just trying to keep you stable and buy time. There is no cure, you won’t get better, so easy goes it until it doesn’t work any more. Because of the less aggressive medications my hair didn’t fall out, I haven’t lost weight, my colour is normal and I don’t spend hours puking. Like I said, I am fine.
But then the chemo (pills) is still pretty yukky, I get regular blood tests, 3 monthly CT scans, 6 monthly bone scans, and have a 6 weekly check up with my Oncologist. I’m pretty resilient, but when they scanned my brain ‘just to check’ it was pretty shitty (it was clear btw).
Any one of those visits could be the one when I find out the medication is no longer working, the spots on my liver are out of control, there are no other options, and that’s it game over. It is like living under the sword of Damocles. But I’ve just gotta get on with it.
12. Normal, unless it isn’t.
Polycystic liver and polycystic kidney disease, untreatable anemia. Organs look like they have chicken pox, so many cysts they won’t count them. Most are less than a cm, except for the two in the liver that are about 3cm across and growing.
My kidney numbers suck for someone my age (42). 65% kidney function this year. Next year, it’ll be less. Saving up for a transplant I’m statistically unlikely to get, and won’t hope for one because someone else would have to die so that I could live.
What’s my day like? 100% normal, unless it isn’t. If I’m not sick, it’s like any other day. I’m taking off the excess weight. Very limited alcohol, no pain relievers unless I just can’t take it anymore. I’ve got a husband and kids who have their own lives and I can’t have them wasting my time feeling sorry for me. All I can do is raise them up to be independent with strong family bonds.
I don’t expect to see 60. Hell, 50’s starting to look suspect. But every day is a gift. Some days, that’s all I’ve got, but it’s something.
11. Today, you’re alive.
44 with stage 4 prostate cancer. Just reminding myself that I’m alive today and will most likely be alive tommorow. I’m a lot more focused on looking for beauty in the world around me and doing my best not to pay attention to the agents of the id when they get dark. One breath, one minute, one hour, one day at a time.
10. Living on borrowed time.
I am 30. I have stage IV rectal cancer. It has a 5 year survivabilty rate of 6% and no statistic for 10 year survival. I was diagnosed almost three years ago now.
To answer your question, it really depends.
Last year at this time, I was on chemo drug called Irontican, at a very high dosage. My doctors were telling me that I would live as long as the drug kept working and I could tolerate it. Then I would go off, and have a few months (less than 3) and my organs would start shutting down and I would die a protracted and painful death.
My cycle was 2 weeks of chemo, one week break. At the beginning, I was sick for a day or two (nausea, not eating, sleeping 15-20 hours a day. Winded walking across my apartment) then back on my feet except for rampant diarrhea, total lack of continence and 10-20 bathroom trips a day. By October of last year, I had done 18 consecutive rounds of chemo. My really awful days had extended from 1 or 2 days after chemo to 5 or 6. I was only not sick on my one week breaks in my cycle. So for clarity, that was two full weeks of debilitating sickness and pain, then one week at kinda sorta sick. Then start back again.
When I first was told that my metastatic disease had spread to five tumors in my lungs and one in my kidney, my doctors were grave. But I was determined to keep going on. My daughter had just turned 3, and I desperately wanted to live long enough for her to remember me. That was in February. By October, I didn’t care. It was better for her not to remember me than to remember me as the woman who never got out of bed, shat herself constantly, and otherwise couldn’t function.
So I told my doctor I wanted to switch to palliative care and discontinue all chemo. She had been fighting me about backing down my treatments for months. But I broke down in her office. She got me to agree to meet a Colorectal cancer oncologist.
And it changed my life. It wasn’t easy. I’ve been through three surgeries since then. I almost died from a postoperative infection. But now my disease is under control and I live a mostly normal life.
My death used to be my waking obsession. I fantasized about dying. I spent my good days writing memoirs and creating books for my kids. It crosses my mind often now, but I have received a chance to really live again, and I’m not wasting that time worrying about death. It’s coming for me, and it’s coming sooner than it is for my peers. I won’t see my kids graduate high school, or get married. I probably won’t be around for their first dates, or first crushes. But for me it’s enough that I got to kiss my son on his first day of school. That I have got to sit down and teach my daughter her letters. That I have done trips, wrote letters, and created memory after memory.
It’s weird, living on borrowed time. It’s weird because it’s pretty normal. I get exasperated with my kids attitudes and I scold them. I worry about car payments and my weight. All against the incredible backdrop of what a privilege it is to do all this. Because I wasn’t just sick, I was dying. This time last year, my life was already gone. And somehow, amazingly, I have it back.
9. Today is the only day.
Recently diagnoses motor neuron disease. (ALS)
No idea how long I have. It recently picked up pace and am (at this rate) only weeks away from not being able to walk and or drive. I currently use a scooter but will soon need a power chair.
I have been dealing with this diagnosis for almost 2 years. More recently my I have begun to slur my words and breathing capacity has been diminished.
This is literally extremely new to me. 2 months ago it was just upper motor neurons but further testing (EMG) has revealed other wise and involvement of lower motor neurons.
How does my day look like?
It took me way too long and until this disaster for me to learn that today was the only day I ever had, have and will ever have. As hard as it is to not think about whatever future I have left and what will happen, just like a healthy person is often a waste of one’s time. I can also look back on the past on what I could have done differently. Again a waste and goes double for the same thought as a healthy person. I only have today. Better yet I only have this moment.
Learning not only to deal with today I have learned to deal with this moment. When you are ill it is easy to get lost in thoughts and ignore the situation. Maybe feel sorry, shop or get wasted, there are many escapes to dealing with disaster. I choose to honor my situation. Why? It is not going anywhere.
Honoring my pain: I am not my illness. I am me who happens to be ill. It is with me so I ‘be’ with it. “It” is now an intricate part of my life. I do not dwell on it, its just like a new pet I have. This I can do.
This has brought me peace these past two weeks and its never too late to let go of the endless useless thoughts.
Now, having no idea if this goes down in few months or a few years, it really doesn’t matter does it? No.
I have today. When I still breath in this fresh air. When I can still chill with my chocolate Lab and enjoy his company. When I can still help others with words of encouragement. When I can still dance in my head to the music that I hear. When I can still make a joke and see you smile.
Yeah, considering…Today is looking pretty f**king sweet. I am the lucky one. It is never too late to gain an appreciation for life. Even if its through the eyes of death. Thanks for reading.
8. Don’t plan anything.
I’m 30. Non-hodgkin lymphoma. I’ve been saying I have about a month left, for like the last 4 months. I am progressively getting worse though, and now I truly think it’s about a month.
The main thing for me is not planning anything more than 4-5 days in advance. I may end up in hospital by then (a regular occurence) or I may be dead by then! There’s a lot of living in the moment, and being selfish, which nobody holds against you.
I’m constantly torn between purging all my belongings to make the process easier on my parents, or just leaving things the way they are. Also, I go back and forth between almost making ridiculous purchases (sports car), and giving all my savings to my sister/using it to pay for my funeral. I’ve come to terms with dying. I’ve mentioned this on r/cancer.
The main thing for me is being comfortable. I don’t want pain. Which is tough, because i’m in pain 24/7 haha. It’s just crazy how in a year I’ve transformed from a muscular, handsome, wonderful, caring, thoughtful person if i may toot my own horn, to a f**king burden that people just worry about and dont know what to say around.
7. Don’t let it define who you are.
47 year old with Adult Congenital Heart Disease. I had surgery for it when I was 20, began having uncontrolled arrhythmia 2 years ago. Hospitalized every 3 months at least. Tried every medication and ablation therapy. Pacemaker implantation.
I don’t know when my last day is coming but I know one thing, I won’t let it define who I am, now. Tomorrow, I have an opportunity to meet with specialists at the Mayo Clinic.
Regardless of what they tell me, I will continue working from a job at home that I fortunately was able to set up, playing with my grandson and looking for my soulmate. I’ve given this disease too much already.
6. Before it’s too late.
My life expectancy for my disease is 40. I’m 25. So I don’t really dwell on it too much yet but I do make sure to take new opportunities as much as possible so I can experience different things before it’s too late.
5. Pretty lucky.
54, Interstitial Lung Disease. A progressive degeneration which should get me around 60. Not bad, as I was diagnosed well in advance (~44) and have had plenty of time to get over it.
I can’t do much anymore that doesn’t leave me gasping and hacking, so a brisk walk is out of the question, which is irritating. I used to love camping, hiking, biking, yada, yada, yada. But I get up every morning, get the kids up, dressed, and off to school. Work from home and then pick them up and get dinner started.
Wife works away from the home and goes to school at night to finish an assoc. in health care, as she will need a better income eventually.
I did well professionally and things will be OK financially. We have a pretty solid five year plan and things will be fine. All told, I’m pretty lucky.
4. Life is different, but the same.
Another brain tumor here.
Things are a bit more optimistic now but between surgery and chemo it seemed more certain.
I dropped most of my friends and completely changed my lifestyle. I had a few focuses: living in the moment, a low stress life, and getting enough done to feel good about myself.
Now after chemo I might get more time and who knows what could come up if I get long enough. I’ve just gotten a girlfriend for the first time since diagnosis. Life is… different, but the same. The tumor is still there.
3. Don’t be mad.
35/m with stage 4 cancer; doesn’t matter where. I’ve known for not quite a year and a half. My doc told me any time past 2 years would be a miracle. Here’s my story:
I’m the only child of only children and my grandparents on down have been very successful. My parents were both successful lawyers and both died in a car accident when I was 14. Since I have no other family my best friends parents adopted me. Lived with them until I was 18 and went to college. I also got a decent chunk of my inheritance at 18, which was just under 7 figures (I got the rest 5 years ago). Got through college and started a business about a year after I was done with school. My best friend joined me and we got things working and made it quite successful with the help of a few other awesome employees.
I spent my 20s working and partying (no regrets!) and didn’t really take time to worry about my health. So, about a year and half ago I go to get a check up finally. Asked to come back for tests, did that, stage 4 cancer. Woot woot, dead man walking. I was devastated by the news, of course, but kept it to myself for about a year before I spilled it to my best friend one drunk night. I had an idea on what I wanted to do with our company so I did it. I sold my shades of the company to my friend for $1. He owns the company now but there were a few agreements that we hammered out that benefit me and our employees.
After that was settled I looked up the girl who was always the apple of my eye in school. She and I were close friends, so I never made a move, and eventually our paths took us in different directions. So, I called her up, spilled my guts, and told her that I had always had a thing for her. She was single (I wouldn’t have made the call otherwise) and in between jobs, so I went to where she was and spent 2 weeks there.
It was heaven, to be super cliche about it. Like we never missed a beat but had fallen in love in the time we had been apart. It was hot and heavy from the start and not just physically. It was the possibly one of the best times of my life, and my financial situation has always ensured good times for me.
But, eventually I came home because that stuff doesn’t last forever. When I got back I’d never felt more lonely, and loneliness is a feeling I’m more than used to. So, I said “f**k it” and called her up again.
Essentially, I told her I would like to come back. She said yes, of course; she didn’t know why I left to begin with. So, I moved in with her. I told her not to worry about a job if she didn’t want to. She got a part time job to keep busy and as she says to keep from getting tired of her. We have spent the last 5-6 months planning an all out vacation that I hope to die on, quite honestly. We leave in just under 2 weeks.
Arrangements have been made with my lawyers to take care of my estate. My house has already been sold, the money that’s left in my account when I’m gone will go to food banks, library, and schools in my hometown, and every employee currently working at the business will get a one time check; $3k for every year with the company.
This Friday my best friend and adoptive parents are coming out to say goodbye. We will party and have fun and I guess, in the end, say “see ya!”.
I was jaded and pessimistic about life after my parents passing for a long time. It took a “death diagnosis” for me to see what was in front of my the whole time. I consider myself very fortunate. While I certainly wish that I could live a long life; I do feel like I’ve had a full one.
I’d also like to take a second to thank Reddit. You people are as funny as you are intelligent and this community kept me laughing on some pretty dark days awhile back. So thanks! Also, remember to get your yearly check ups. I could have beat this had I caught it soon enough.
All in all, I’m not mad. I’ve managed to get the girl I wanted and am about to embark on the trip of a lifetime with her. Some of you may think she’s about the money. That could be true, but know what? I don’t care. This is how I’m happy in what will likely be the last year of my life. I’m lucky to be where I am now.
2. Every moment is valuable.
Liver cancer here, result of extreme iron-overload undetected for far too long. Metastatic now. Bad. There is nothing that can be done.
So, really any day now. But here is the thing, we are all dying. Ever second that goes by is one second closer to it. So today, tomorrow, next week, next year….all of those moments are way more valuable than you realize. You don’t understand how short life is until you can see the end.
I’m 42. I won’t live to see my daughter graduate from high school. I won’t see go to prom, go to college, get married, have kids, all of that. I won’t be here to comfort her when she gets her heartbroken. I won’t be here to support her, take care of her, watch out for her.
My wife is a wreck. Some days it’s like I’m already dead, and she’s just lost in grief. There are no words to make her feel better. I cannot tell her everything is going to be okay because I am going to die. She knows it, I know it, there is no easy way to accept that.
Day to day? Make the best out of it. I’m not blowing money left and right because I want to leave it behind for my girls. Quit smoking. Ironic. Spend a lot of time getting my s*%t together for when I am gone. Who I want to have what. Insurance, bills, finances sorted out and set up to make it as easy as possible for my wife at the transition. Have written some letters for my daughter to get when she is older. Have put together a lot of home videos from when she was little, stuff she won’t remember and I won’t be around to tell her about… early birthdays, time we spent together, I want her to have those memories.
Made two videos, one for my wife and one for my girl. I want them to be able to see me happy, not hurting, see my face, hear my voice. Got my s*%t together as far as last wishes, when I want them to pull the plug and let me go, how I don’t want a funeral. I’ve set aside money for them to throw a party as a memorial. Drink and eat and share good memories.
Other than that I go to work when I can, work from home when I can’t. Spend as much time with my girls, my parents, my sisters family, my dogs as humanly possible. Eat good steak, drink good alcohol, enjoying every sunrise, sunset, and moment in between.
We all have to make the best of what we’ve got while we’ve got it. There is no better time than today, because tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us.
1. Today is the future.
I’m 26. At 21 I had a serious heart attack, my survival rate was something like 6 percent. I ended up having an ICD put in. There is no cure, and I was told at the time that I should go live my life as normal as I could.
It changed my life, and still every day is affected by my heart attack. I wake up, and really try to keep my day as simple and stress free as I can. I hate to call it selfish, but at the time I was in college and when I had the heart attack I realized everything I had been doing in life was planning for a future I won’t ever have. All of a sudden I didn’t buy into the degree, college debt, and planning for retirement.
The idea of “retirement” was all I thought about. Traveling, my own time, finally enjoying life. So, now when I wake up I chase retirement. I took off and hiked the Appalachian Trail, traveled the country, traveled south america. It gets lonely, it gets hard, but at the end of the day I just have to go to bed and think, the time to travel and see the world is today instead of the future because I could die at any time.
I think answers like these are so interesting, because most of us will never be able to truly walk in their shoes.
If you’ve had personal experience with this situation, tell us what you witnessed – or how you plan to handle it – in the comments!