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Saturday, January 7, 2017

It's Better to Burn Out ...

It's better to burn out
than to fade away

This quote is generally attributed to Neil Young, from his Rust Never Sleeps album in 1979. It was used later by Def Leppard on their 1983 Pyromania album. It was used later in the 1986 movie Highlander.

I'm not really a fan of Neil Young or of Def Leppard. I remembered it by the Highlander reference because it's one of my favorite movies.

This can be interpreted a few ways, or for you Kurt Cobain fans, tragically misinterpreted. Beyond this, these earlier quotes below illustrate more what I'm talking about here. The interpretation I'm looking for is one of living purposefully and not just fading into oblivion, not necessarily burning out like some rock star. Keep on trying; don't ever give up; leave some kind of legacy behind and positively impact anyone you can reach.

My candle burns at both ends
It will not last the night
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light!

Edna St. Vincent Millay
This is the poetic winner.

A lot of this really applies to anyone's life, whether you have cancer or not. Our Earthly lives don't go on forever, so guard those minutes lest they slip away never to be lived again. If we can just achieve what Ms Millay is getting at. Hopefully our light falls on others in a way that is not only  lasting, but also bright and warm.

I try to keep a balance between living a "bucket-list" oriented life with one that is still active, but serves more purpose than fulfilling my personal wish-list. It's more important to me to spend time with my family, first and foremost; and with my close friends. In the end, it's all we have, and it's all I have energy for any more. Any "frenemies" situations or other man-made BS, douche-ery, self-righteousness, I'm not interested; at all. And I might just tell you so.

Treatment Burn-out

It's better to wear out
Than rust out

One of the flip-side views on this "burn out" interpretations hit me lately, too. Recently I've felt like I'm burned out on my treatment regimen: chemo every two weeks, dialysis labs once a month, dialysis clinic once a month, dialysis every single night. Throw in a few bonus labs and Duke or UNC visits.

I've said before our current life is like running to stand still. We're always chasing time around here. We have three children with a lot of activities, so balancing in full-time work and free time into all this is quite difficult. It might not seem like much, but see if you can take, on average, a two-hour chunk of time every single week, during work hours, dedicated to medical care. And time for scheduling appointments, talking to nurses, insurance, whatever. And days of degraded quality after chemo. The effects of it usually don't hit until some hours after treatment, meaning times after work when I'd rather be doing something else than laying in bed.

And take 10+ hours out of every 24 for dialysis; that's the real time killer. When I'm not too tired in the mornings, I do work or catch up on e-mails or social media (yea, I now do a little again), but not too often. Most days I'm very fatigued in the mornings. As I wrote before, cancer is hard, but on a day-to-day basis, dialysis sucks worse.

I'm still more of a night owl than a morning person. I always was. There's no option to go to bed at midnight and get up a 6am or 7am to beat the traffic any more. No stealing sleep time to make up for other things. Spending time in traffic seems like a ghastly thing to me now, such a waste of time. It's not like anyone else wants to waste their time sitting in traffic, either, but they can steal hours elsewhere; I can't.

Never Fade Away

This occurred to me a few weeks ago just when my head was getting shaved during a "second birthday" celebration. My buddies and I had pledged to shave our heads if we could raise some money for Duke and UNC Hopsitals, and we did, over $2000 in just about 10 days time.

The "it's better to burn out..." thought just popped into my head, mostly because of the image of the bald Kurgan saying it in the movie. I don't identify with going around terrorizing people in churches (or anywhere), but it was the image: I was becoming bald again; and what the hell, lately I had been feeling like I was fading away, and not burning; I needed to fix that.

Shine on, you crazy diamond.


  1. It's always a thought-provoking honor to peek into your world, Dana. Thanks for sharing - and shining. Love to all!

  2. As always, enjoy reading your insights.

  3. My prayer every day is for a donor match to be found for this precious child of mine.....

  4. You're struggling with a lot of deep stuff but the very post itself says that you are not fading out. No one fading out has that sort of insight and awareness. I keep you in my prayers. Hope to see you soon. Thanks for the beautiful & strong witness.

  5. Hey Dana,
    Nice read. Though I cannot truely understand all you are going thru, no dialysis for me. I completely get the daily struggle to try and find more time. You try to use your time as efficiently as you can and while you plan/ organize said time you realize this in and of itself just wasted what what you were trying to save. Outside the treatments and work, I decided to just let time happen. So if you dont have time to go to an NC state baseball game with the family spend what you have with them anyway. 15 minutes, 45 minutes, it doesn't matter. It doesnt matter what you do with them or for how long. It just matters whatever precious time you can find on a given day is spent with them. That is all they want, it may seem like fading to you but you are burning bright to them.

  6. Brother you awesome, I am blessed to call you friend. There will be no fading out. Upside down and on fire is how I like to cross the finish line. Even if my on fire is more domesticated now that I am a little more seasoned. Younger days it could be taken literally. Live each day with a purpose even if that purpose is sitting quietly around a fire watching a baseball game outside.

  7. This is a great read, Dana. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Dana, you are an inspiration to me. I am encouraged by your writing and find strength in knowing I am not alone in taking each breath as if it were my last yet the first breath of a stronger me. God's Blessings!