Sunday, March 30, 2008

I Choose Cancer

During my first year living with cancer, I said I'd prefer to die a sudden death - hit by lightning, a bus, a meteorite. Anything but the drawn-out agony of knowing I'm going to die of this disease but without knowing exactly how, when, or where.

I've since changed my mind about that.

A good friend of mine just lost a friend quite suddenly. Her friend had a headache, took some pain reliever, and went to sleep. He never woke up. He left behind three young children, a wife, a brother, a mother, and many, many friends who are still reeling from the shock. If I were his wife, how would I explain to my kids how their daddy died?

When the head investigator on the TV show, CSI, was asked how he'd like to die, he said cancer. Here's a guy whose job it is to dissect the many different ways of dying (albeit in a TV show), and he'd rather die of cancer than of a bullet wound, heart attack, stroke, stabbing, poisoning, drug overdose, car accident, or the myriad other ways that we can shuffle off this mortal coil.

Why? Why would anybody want to die of cancer - the toxic drugs you have to take with its debilitating side effects, the surgery and accompanying pain and discomfort of recovery, radiation that's supposed to kill cancer cells but puts you at risk for more cancer. And that's just the physical side. What about the emotional and mental stress of having the cancer cloud hanging over your life, obscuring any future you might dream about?

My answer to that is, knowledge. I'm a big fan of knowing as much as I can about me, my world, my life, my death. I don't want to be the last one to know about my death. I want to know ahead of time, and I want as much control over it as I can have.

I think cancer gives me the luxury of preparing myself and the people I care about. It gives me time to think about my life and to enjoy the time I have left.

We all have to die of something. I choose cancer.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Perhaps now that you've come to that conclusion, you find a sort of peace, that now you have slowed down 'the struggle' and accept where you are right now, your body can rest for a moment and probably be glad that you've come to some conclusion. I think this is healthy, this is like saying that you accept that there is some larger picture here and that, cancer is not a punishment, it is just something that happened. I feel that this is good. Now that confronting death, you have come to terms. It is kind of silly that in our culture we daren't 'go there' we prefer to be obsessed with youth, heath, just about anything but the most obvious thing we all have in common.

Shin said...

Dear Anonymous,

Actually, I've never thought of cancer as a punishment. I've always believed there's a "larger picture", even before I had cancer.

And I haven't "slowed down the struggle". I'm still fighting this thing with whatever I and my doctors have left.

I think I had "come to terms" with death even before all of this happened. I thought about death before cancer; this isn't some new self-realization I've come across since my diagnosis.

What I HAVE learned is that as awful as cancer and its treatments are, at least I get time with my family and friends - time to enjoy what I have left.

deb said...

Cancer is truely a horrible disease and I don't know if I'd choose it but I do look at the lessons we learn from it.

I do think that over the past few years you have learnt things about yourself that you would probably have missed had it not been for your shortened life span.

I too have changed the way I look at my world. Just the other day I was racing into town (down my little country lane) and I saw ahead a pair of ducks and their four chicks waiting to cross the road. I slammed on the brakes and let them take their time, I don't even know what I was rushing for. It made me feel sad that this is the kind of thing you'll miss.

I even thought of you the other day when I mowed the lawn. I'd put it off for weeks because it seemed like too much hard work but once I made the effort I loved it: the outdoors, all the trees around, the workout I got from it and that wonderful small of fresh cut grass.

So thinking about you makes me look for those little joys in life that I would probably miss otherwise.

It's my birthday soon and everyone keeps on at me about what I want.
I want to feel the sun on my face. I want to smell the trees around me. I want to watch the ducks caring for their chicks. I want my friends and family to be healthy.

I know I appreciated the little things before but since you've been sick they mean even more to me.

You didn't choose cancer Shin but you're dealing with it with such an amazing attitude.

Hey. I'm going to see you soon :)

XXXXX

Anonymous said...

Dear Shin,

I'm absolutely positive that you can get back to a healthy, normal life. Please try the vegetable soup I mentioned. What I mean is not the kind of soup you may eat usually with any vegetables. It is a simple mixture of several plants and water.

The vegetable soup is not just a healthful diet. It is being widely used to treat cancer patients in many countries including the U.S., Japan, and Korea. Many media sources say the majority of cancer patients eating the soup have completely recovered just by drinking the soup on a regular basis. It has been reported that even those at a quite developed stage of breast cancer have overcome the disease by drinking the soup for three months.

Let me tell you about its recipe and some things you should keep in mind.
The ingredients contained in the soup are just five kinds.
- a radish 1/4 piece
- a radish leaf 1/4 piece, or 2 dried radish leaves
- a carrot 1/2 piece
- a burdock 1/4 piece
- 1 naturally dried mushroom
* Don't get electrically dried mushroom. Just get yourself a fresh mushroom to dry in the sunlight for three days.
You should get the vegetables in a fresh state with no chemicals or contaminants.
Pour water three times the amount of the vegetables. Make sure that you boil them in an aluminum container or a heat-resistant glass.
Don't cut the vegetables to many pieces. Cut them to a small number of large chunks without peeling them off.
After boiling the water, boil it for one more hour with relatively light heat.
Don't lift the lid while the water boils.

Don't wrap the vegetables above in a piece of foil. Never soak them in water.
Don't forget to keep the vegetable soup in a glass.
Don't add any other ingredients to the soup. If you do, they could cause some poisonous state of the whole soup.

- How to drink
Drink the soup (or juice) in a glass of 200 cc three times a day. Keep the boiled water in a glass and put it in a refrigerator.
If you don't like the smell of the vegetable soup, you may add some honey to it.

Please get well soon.

Your friend,
Dongchol Kim

Anonymous said...

It's never easy to come to terms with this disease called cancer. I am also a cancer patient with don't know how many months, or what so ever in front of me. It's good to see Shin so strong and striving. Yes, we like to be in control esp. for the matters that concern us. But the disease is a bit tough to be in control. Wish u all the best, Shin !

Anonymous said...

Dearest Shin,
I was just sent your blog by Priya. I met you many years ago, at a farewell party for Eunice when she was leaving Singapore for CNN. (I used to work at CNBC alongside Eunice). I can still remember seeing a photo then of Josie who was still very tiny and very cute. I have heard about your cancer from Priya as well as Eunice and was very sad each time I heard an update.
I wanted to say that your blog is just pretty *amazing* - how honest you have been, and (i know you have heard this many times, but its true), how inspirational and strong you are.
This has been a unsettling time for me and i had actually been moping somewhat over the weekend. I just wanted to write and say that reading your blog seriously helps puts things in perspective. I do feel blessed everyday, and even more so after having taken a few hours to read your blog tonight.
I don't have kids, but your entries about talking to Josie and Toby about death were beautifully written. They made me cry.
Please know that I am sending good thoughts your way.
Love,
Cheryl
--

Richard said...

Hi Shin,

I just wanted you to know I was thinking about you. I hope you are enjoying your time with Jin. Say hi to Jin for me.

Rick Ottenstein

Anonymous said...

From Paris,
Stay positive, we are thinking to you and sendng prayers. No news from you, hoping for the best.

Well Wisher said...

Come on Shin, your naming the choice of death (not your coming to terms with death) obviously came after cancer was found in you. When you say a "larger picture" I wouldnt think you're referring to a "greater cause" because from reading your blog your mission or purpose from now on is not towards some humanity issues but quite family-centred concerns, particularly loving and cherishing your remaining (could be longer than mine) time with your loved ones and friends. The other one I gather would be attacking cancer from all fronts including the way the hospice is managing cancer patients.

You know what? I believe you really stare death in the face. I am learning it too from here. If you ever wonder what you're imparting in this blog, this is it.

I take a risk here to say one thing. If the Bible says, "Oh death, where is thy sting?" What will be yours?

Shin said...

Well Wisher,

I'm not sure what you're asking. What will be the thing about death that "stings" or hurts me the most? What scares me the most about death?

Anonymous said...

Dear Shin,

I would disagree with the statement, "I choose cancer." Some of the things that happen to us may not be due to our doing (e.g., hurts from friends, family members). However, we can choose how we respond or act, and not react out of anger, malice or hatred. We may not change our circumstances but our choice for what is good and wise makes a difference. We can choose to be slow to speak out of anger, but quick to listen to others... in so doing, we foster understanding and better human relationships. We can also choose to be teachable to learn under every situation.

Well Wisher said...

A Christian may stare at death and say, "Oh death, where is thy sting?" I Corinthians 15:55. It should mean, if I am not wrong, that since Christ died for man and man has eternal life through just believing in Him, death then has no power (can't sting).

So if you were to have a dream and see "death" in a form as if it were coming for you, what would you say to death?

Shin said...

Well Wisher,

Ooh. That's an interesting question.

First, I'd ask questions to verify that it was indeed Death I was speaking to. Once I were convinced of that, I'd ask where Death was taking me.

And you? What would YOU ask or say to Death?

I prefer John Donne's poem, "Death Be Not Proud", to the Bible verse.

Well Wisher said...

Me? I am making adjustments in my courage level. Like most readers who get boldness to confront death from reading your blog, I am too. Still.

Thanks for taking your precious time replying.

Kelly Lim said...

i just read "Death Be Not Proud" (poem by John Donne) which Shin mentioned. I looked it up on the net. I have no idea what it means. Zero. Clueless. I wish i found this earlier & would ask Shin what the poem meant. She's so smart.

Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not soe,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill mee.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.