WHEN MISS NORMA WAS DIAGNOSED WITH UTERINE CANCER AT THE AGE OF 90, SHORTLY AFTER THE DEATH OF HER HUSBAND OF NEARLY SEVEN DECADES, SHE WAS ADVISED TO UNDERGO SURGERY, RADIATION, AND CHEMOTHERAPY. BUT INSTEAD OF CONFINING HERSELF TO A HOSPITAL BED FOR WHAT COULD BE HER LAST STAY, NORMA ROSE TO HER FULL HEIGHT OF FIVE FEET AND TOLD HER DOCTOR, “I’M NINETY YEARS OLD. I’M HITTING THE ROAD.”
— DRIVING MISS NORMA – ONE FAMILY’S JOURNEY TO SAYING “YES” TO LIVING
If you own this story, you get to write the ending.
After reading Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande Miss Norma’s family decided to take her on the road with them and spend an extended period of time travelling all over the United States.
When my husband was first diagnosed with cancer and had recovered from the operation to remove the mass in his bowel we spontaneously booked flights to Europe and spent six months travelling around the United Kingdom, Scandinavia and Western Europe. We hired a car and, at a time when there were no GPS or Google Maps on our mobiles, navigated our way, through countless countries. We never had a specific destination, only finding accommodation when our day was done. Sometimes we stayed in one place for a few days but generally, we kept moving.
Ours was an amazing trip of a lifetime where my husband got to visit all those places friends had talked about. Needless to say, I can totally relate to the families decision to hit the road.
In our case cancer returned with an aggressive vengeance. Having borne witness to my husband’s long, futile battle which involved coping with the devastating effect of chemotherapy and radiation treatment on his wellbeing, I applaud Miss Norma’s decision to give surgery and treatment a miss.
Miss Norma has passed now but, as reviews such as this reveal, her legacy lives on, inspiring others to make the choice to live.
You can purchase a copy of Driving Miss Norma at Book Depository or other bookstores. Driving Miss Norma’s Facebook, which recorded much of the families journey can still be found online and there is also a Miss Norma web site.
Depression is an affliction Elizabeth Layton overcame. Art enabled her to say ‘yes’ to living. Mrs Layton, a native of Wellsville, Kansas…a few miles north of Ottawa, took her first art class at the age of 67. She had heard from a sister in California that art might help depression, which she had suffered from most of her life, so she enrolled in a drawing class at Ottawa University. The instructor, Pal Wright, just happened to be teaching contour drawing. He encouraged her to draw, and draw she did. For up to eighteen hours a day, she hovered over her makeshift drawing table set up in a corner of her bedroom, pouring out the fears, guilt and anger of her troubled life. Six months later, she announced to her family that she was no longer depressed. She felt free at last.
It is said that what distinguishes Elizabeth Layton’s drawings from others is their breadth, their freshness, and their expression of hope. Few artists have depicted such far-reaching social concerns such as capital punishment, homelessness, hunger, racial prejudice, AIDS, ageing and the right to die.
How will you, how have you said yes to living? What steps are you taking to own your ending?