Thursday, January 1, 2015

My reaction to "Dying of cancer is the best death"

Let me preface my reaction to Richard Smith’s recent article, “Dying of cancer is the best death” ( by stating that my dream is to live to his ripe age of 62 so that I too can have the opportunity to be controversial in the world of social media after I retire. Maybe I’ll decide one day to be plucky, and see what reactions I can get, just for fun. Perhaps after a longer lifetime, I’ll decide to write an article chock-full of incendiary remarks on a topic rife with human emotion. And if I do, perhaps I’ll be brazen enough to use it as a precursor for why the entire medical industry is just plain wrong. All in my humble opinion of course. But the key point here is the still being alive part. As for the rest of it? I doubt it.

What could he possibly be thinking? I wracked my brain for hours trying to understand what the author intended here. I didn't come up with anything good. What I do think is that the author was trying to be provocative, and if that's all he was trying to accomplish, I commend him for his efforts. Truly, bravo for venturing into the topic of death with nary a concern for people whose experiences with cancer might not easily be washed away by a sip of whisky.

I have known many people who slipped peacefully away in hospice. They too left their cancer-riddled bodies with all their final arrangements in order. But they are by far the minority with respect to cancer deaths that I have come to know.

My guess is that anyone who has sat by the bedside of someone moaning through breakthrough morphine that isn’t dulling the pain from bone metastases, might desire a different option for letting go of their mortal coil. As someone who is facing the possibility of having my body melt away in front of my children from a hemorrhagic cancer, I too have a strong desire to NOT DIE FROM CANCER.

I have made my video’s, written my letters, read my poetry and taken my road trips. I have said goodbye more times than I’ve said hello. And yet after reading this article, I wish that Richard Smith could relate more to the “pair of ragged claws scuttling across the floors of silent seas” that T.S. Elliot felt kinship with, than to the quirky death whisperer that he clearly aspires to be.

But than again, what do I know. I haven’t died yet.  And all that waiting in line to chat with Lazarus is too time consuming. I think I’ll take my chances and drive a little too fast, maybe forget my seatbelt from time to time. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll get lucky and live past this awful diagnosis so that I too can have the opportunity to die from something else.

Disclosure: I have angiosarcoma. No one would choose this path out of life.


  1. Had to look up the word plucky.

    You're right - most people don't fade away gracefully like Yul Brynner in The King & I.

    1. Maybe more like Yul in real life..didn't he die of cancer?

  2. Eloquent riposte. May you live to a ripe old age Corrie x

    1. Thank you Marie, for bringing this to our attention and for asking what we think.

  3. Hi Corrie, not sure if I should read Richard's article. Being a living person who has "died" of heart failure I can say it's an experience that may sound exotic, poetic and cool in a kind of warped way. But over the edge the whole thing sucks. So that's not comforting but also points the the importance of BEING in your living self now for your loved ones (you knew that).
    Hard subject to discuss or prepare for so don't put yourself into the past tense too soon--it's not where you belong.

  4. Well I read most of Richard's article and from my experience he's wrong and shouldn't fool around with speculations on the ending of life. It's a natural process and a deeply focused process but it isn't a story with some sort of narrative structure, it just happens as a leaving.
    You're right, Elliot does it better:
    >I am no prophet--and here’s no great matter;
    I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
    And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
    And in short, I was afraid.<

  5. Thank you Scott, you are right, and Elliot does all of it better