Gut Rumbles

October 12, 2004

christopher reeve

I'm going to get really existential here. If I were Christopher Reeve, I would rather have died falling off that horse than stay alive the way he did. He spent nine years with his mind intact and his body dead from the neck down.

What a horrible way to live.

I couldn't live that way. I thought long and hard about my options before I consented to prostate surgery. Knowing that you have cancer and knowing that it can kill you in a terrible way is a pretty good attention-grabber, but the treatment grabs a lot of attention, too. Here's what I wrote in my journal (before I started blogging) on August 9, 2001:

"I've been thinking about quitting work and passing on any treatment for the prostate cancer. I could pull all of my money out of my 401-K and just travel until the money runs out. Then, I shoot myself.

That doesn't sound unreasonable to me now, given all my special circumstances. If I have the surgery, I'll probably be impotent for the rest of my life, and if the doctor doesn't get all of the cancer, I'll die in about 7 years anyway. If I DON'T have the surgery, I'll die in about 7 years.

With Jennifer taking everything I've got, I'm looking at starting over from scratch at age 49, and I'm not sure I want to do that. I've worked too hard for too long to see my life come to this. If I just take my money and run, I'll at least squeeze some goody out of life before I croak.

I call it a quality of life issue. Maybe I'm going crazy. I've had a hard time coping with the last couple of weeks. Right now, what I'm thinking doesn't seem crazy to me at all."

I wrote that while I was confined in a nut-house.

There is life... and there is living. They aren't the same thing. I want to LIVE, not just be alive. If I can't do that, I would rather exit, stage right, and get this play over with. I don't understand people who cling to life until their fingernails bleed while they waste away, hooked up to machines and unable to get out of a hospital bed.

Fuck that. I don't want to go out like that. I've seen it happen to too many people I loved, and their deaths were actually a blessing when they finally let go. I hated to see them suffer the way they did. I made up my mind a long time ago that I'll never die that way.

I still wonder if I made the right decision when I had the prostate surgery. That experience damn sure changed my life, right in the middle of a shit storm divorce. Maybe I SHOULD have done what I was planning to do when I got out of the nut-house.

But I chose the surgery instead. I knew that if I didn't let 'em cut me, I was gonna die the way my father did. Well... that's not really true. I'd get in the same shape he was in near the end, in constant pain and unable to walk, and I'd take matters into my own hands. Eat a whole bottle of Tylox and wash it down with a fifth of Jim Beam.

Then... just go to sleep.

I wouldn't want to live nine years the way Christopher Reeve did.


I see John Edwards is out there doing a variation on a theme of faith-healing. The sorry bastard is using Reeves' death as a vehicle to plug government-funded embryonic stem cell research. Loose quotation "Elect us and folks like Christopher Reeve will walk again!"

The man needs a punch in the nose. Bad.

Posted by: the friendly grizzly on October 12, 2004 03:39 PM

Edwards is the very definition of a demagogue. He's hoping people are too ignorant to realize there's no proof yet that embrionic stem cells will be able to make spinal cords regenerate. He's playing to the jury, which is the only thing he knows. To say what he did is equal to saying if we don't elect Kerry, more people like Reeve will not be able to walk again. Ludicrous! Hopefully, the people will see through the obviously false scare tactics.

Rob - I'm glad you opted for the surgery as opposed to the alternative. I know you've been through Hell, but I'd hate to think we wouldn't have you as a beacon of truth during these trying times. Keep the posts coming.
Nice gun, BTW.

Posted by: bebubya on October 12, 2004 04:08 PM

For me, it would depend on where I am in life and how old my children are. I couldn't in good conscience leave my children while they are young without fighting to live.

All of life changes because of 'The Children' for me. Obviously I have orphan issues to begin with, but I intend on seeing these little shits graduate and get a good start on life before giving up the ghost.

*Knock on wood*

Posted by: Chablis on October 12, 2004 05:30 PM

To be fair, he made choices that I don't think I would have been able to make, and he kept fighting long past the point when most would have given up. That deserves more credit than being mentioned in the same comment as any of the current crop of politicians.

And I think that being a sound mind in a failed body is better than the other way around.

Posted by: ed on October 12, 2004 05:49 PM

If I could still read books and blogs--I'd still want to live.

Posted by: Sue Bob on October 13, 2004 12:00 AM

Robert was of the same opinion right after his injury. Granted, it wasn't as catastrophic as Reeve's, but it was devastating nonetheless. I certainly wouldn't want to be in either's shoes. And I hope you never are, either.

Fortunately, Robert snapped out of his depression once his "real" chair came. He saw how much he still COULD do. And he can do quite a bit more than Reeve could. He's been thinking about that, too, the last few days. I think he can now put his situation into perspective. He has freedom of movement, he can go sit in front of the computer, cook meals, feed the cats, listen to music, go from one room to another.

Our goal later this year is to modify the car so he can drive again. He really wants to do that so that will be his Christmas present.

I honestly don't know how Dana Reeve did it. Of course, they had a lot more financial resources than we do, but money can't buy time, that's for sure.

Posted by: Joni on October 13, 2004 03:26 AM

Glad you are still around, dude.

Posted by: Vince on October 13, 2004 04:47 PM

I hear ya. I understand. I already have my own mantra. I want to be in a position to take my own life if it sucks enough. Even though I am religous and think that might separate me eternally from the divine. Chris Reeve didn't even have that option without help.

Then again, he was very optimistic and apparently loved life. I admire that, though I don't believe I'd be in the same place in the same situation. I would hope my friends would understand and help me.

Posted by: david on October 15, 2004 07:51 AM

So, do you have a living will? advanced directive? Power of attorney for health care? Good ways to ensure your wishes will be respected.

Posted by: Patsy on October 17, 2004 06:51 AM
Post a comment

*Note: If you are commenting on an older entry, your
comment will not appear until it has been approved.
Do not resubmit it.