Death is a hard topic to address. It’s something we all encounter eventually. Yet, no one knows how to face it. We struggle to understand the grief of losing people we love, and we almost never think of the possibility that our own death could be unexpectedly close. After a life-changing diagnosis, Elizabeth King chose to share some wisdom in Huffpost Personal. She hopes that her children and others might better understand the depth, beauty, and grief of life.
An Introduction to Elizabeth King
Elizabeth King lived life unattached and unaffected by moments. She recalls this began in 5th grade when her father moved Elizabeth and her Siblings to Ithica, Greece in pursuit of his degree. At 7 years she learned a coping mechanism, shared by many. She learned to float on autopilot so as not to be too disheartened by the trouble of life.
By the time she reached college that handy tool had no longer been her desire. In contrast, it had simply become habitual. Her method of ensuring self-preservation. After college she moved to Florida and eventually settled down in Brooklyn, New York. She finally settled in Brooklyn and eventually married a man she’d met at a Pub, in Manhattan, years earlier. The two share a beautiful love story and two adorable children.
Coming Back to Reality
“I called to you after fifth period, but you didn’t even look up,” my sister exclaimed.” Elizabeth shares. This is just one of many examples that Elizabeth experienced while floating through life on autopilot. In that moment, she never even heard her sister. She simply kept her head down and walked on.
Autopilot continued to be her way of life for the next several years. She felt so unhappy internally and began drinking excessively. One day Elizabeth was pulled over for driving erratically and that was the moment a shift occurred. She began cultivating supportive friendships and immersed herself in women’s groups. Took on physical challenges such as marathons. It was during this time of revelation that she married her husband, and began leaning into every moment of life, dark or beautiful.
Her Lifechanging Diagnosis
The 44-year-old mom woke up one day last December unable to write. She was filling out yearly holiday cards to family and friends. She looked down and realized that she’d had a number of spelling errors and “nonsensical scribble”. ““I don’t know what’s happening to me,” I sobbed.” she writes about showing her husband the holiday cards. The next day, while in the ER. she was diagnosed with Glioblastoma.
Glioblastoma, Rare and Deadly
Glioblastoma is a rare disease. Annually, there is estimated to be less than 50,000 cases in the U.S. It is cancerous tumor that develops on the brain. It attacks a specific category of brain cells referred to as astrocytes. An astrocyte is a star-shaped membrane found in the nervous system. These cells for scar tissue to protect and repair the brain after enduring trauma or damage, typically as a result of injury.
This type of cancer is highly aggressive and attacks the surrounding brain tissue. The cause of Glioblastoma is unknown but there are predispositions such as genetic syndromes. Turcot syndrome and Type 1 Neurofibromatosis. Symptoms vary but include headache, drowsiness, nausea, and vomiting. These symptoms occur as the tumor grows and applies pressure to the brain. Other symptoms vary depending on the size and location of the tumor.
A Mother’s Loving Message
The numerous transitions in Elizabeth’s life lead to some unhealthy mechanisms but ultimately led her to fully embrace life for everything that it is. She hopes to teach her children a lesson and chose to share it publicly. Her intent is to help others see both sides of life. Although life can be painful and confusing, it’s also full of wonder and magic.
“The ability to be fully present within it, living, loving, hurting, grieving, discovering. Being. Because even though life can be hard and cruel and painful, it is still incredible. And we get to experience it. We get to live it. We get to be in the middle of it.”
She goes on to wish for her children to, “cultivate the courage and ability to be fully present in your life, the joy and the pain. Let the hurt and disappointment ― even rage ― of my decline and death and all of life’s heartbreaks and struggles strengthen you and open you up, rather than shut you down. Gravitate toward connection over isolation. Find those lit rooms of earnest conversation in the night. Explore your evolving truths about who you are and what you want and what you need. Don’t let decades pass only to realize you haven’t been fully present and you don’t remember who you have touched or loved. Look up when someone calls your name.”
Keep Reading: My Wife Of 51 Years Died. Here’s What I Learned About Grief That I Never Knew Before
- “Glioblastoma – about the disease.” Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center. Retrieved November 6, 2022.