One of my random actor contracting jobs this year was working for a local medical school, where I played a fake patient. I got to pretend I had an illness and the doctors in training would attempt to respond accordingly. In the past, this has usually meant I pretended to have bulimia or OCD, but the last case I was given was breast cancer. In this case, the medical student had to break the news that I was dying, then pretend to visit me in hospice after. Finding out you are dying is…well…pretty shocking. Even when it’s fake. It surprised me actually, how real it felt. Maybe because it’s the first time these medical students are having to tell someone something so horrible, but their anxiety spilled over into me emotionally. Tears streamed down my face, thoughts of how my family would cope filled my head. The craziest thing was that the patient was supposed to be my actual age, and it hit me that being a 30-something means that people I know are actually going to die. Not the accidental shocking 20-something deaths that happen in college, when a university student is hit by a car or overdoses on prescription drugs. Horrible as these are, they are abrupt and usually circumstances of a bad environment or situation. So in some ways, they feel less real, or at least less telling of everyday life. Now, however, people are starting to die of illness, of their bodies giving up on them, of life, and from here on out, it’s only going to get worse. Hurray!
Just as this was sinking in I got the news I’d be attending my first real funeral. Continue reading