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An Unsuitable Way to Die

There was a bit of stir this past week as a Dr. Richard Smith opined that dying from cancer is probably -- to his mind, anyway -- the best way to go. There was, of course, much indignation expressed at such a point of view. Folks have felt the need to redress Dr. Smith by recounting how awful cancer is to experience and deal with (be it personally or as a caretaker). They are, of course, correct in their assessment: cancer is an awful, terrible disease.

For reference, here is a quote from Dr. Smith about why he finds cancer preferable to more sudden forms of demise:

"So death from cancer is the best ... You can say goodbye, reflect on your life, leave last messages, perhaps visit special places for a last time, listen to favourite pieces of music, read loved poems, and prepare, according to your beliefs, to meet your maker or enjoy eternal oblivion.
"This is, I recognise, a romantic view of dying, but it is achievable with love, morphine, and whisky.

There it is. Oddly, I'm not as outraged by the opinion of Dr. Smith as others seem to be. We're all entitled to our opinions, and there's no skating around the fact of what a dreadful experience cancer can be, yet.... if we're to be honest with ourselves.... haven't we all, at one time or another, thought about how we'd like to go?

The manner of one's death doesn't -- or at least shouldn't -- pre-occupy much of our time, especially the younger a person is, but its morbidity is inescapable at various points of our life. After my dad died from pancreatic cancer, I was faced -- at the ripe old age of 21 -- with wondering how I'd like to depart this life. Going through that was quite the eye opener.

Over the years I've oscillated between wanting a quick death and wanting one that provides more time for closure. Of course, "closure" is not as easily attained in real life as it is in the movies. In real life, people don't follow a script, neatly coming to the same conclusions about things at one, harmonious time, quiet whispers of "I love you" flowing from the lips of loved ones before one of them dies.

For me, a relatively quick death is preferable. Painless would be nice, but I don't want to shoot for the moon here. We're not getting out of this alive, nor are we likely to be absent of pain on the departure path. But cancer is bad. Of the many diseases that can slowly wipe away our existence, I wouldn't wish it upon even a worst enemy. To say that it is the "best" way to die is to not understand what it is about.

It can be argued that if you require a long, drawn-out death to get your affairs in order and say all the right things to those you care about, then you're not living right to begin with. I'm guilty of not being completely ready to go, but recognize that as a failing on my part, and to, please God/fate/whatever, not give me cancer as way to go so that I may atone for such oversights.

Given statistics, however, I'm likely to die that way like so many others have before. Such is life (and death).


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