Cancer, the choice

The sister in law of one of my oldest friends has pancreatic cancer. Much to the dismay of her family she has refused treatment & asked to be taken to a hospice. I sympathise with her. No 2 people are the same. If she feels that that is the right decision for her, her wishes should be respected. Cancer is a killer. Were she to accept treatment, she would be submitting to endless courses of radiation or chemotherapy. Her life would be entirely given over to surviving. Every living moment she would be aware that this death sentence had been passed over to her. To me, the most terrifying thing would be being told that I had cancer. I would know that something had changed irreversibly & irrevocably & there would be many things that at the moment I can do, which in future I wouldn’t be able to do. Many of my friends & relatives have died from cancer including both my parents. Cancer is a death sentence; it heralds & long & painful process. It was said by the 19th century poet Arthur Hugh Clough Thou shalt not kill; but need’st not strive officiously to keep alive & it is true. There is a difference between this & euthanasia. In many ways modern medicine has changed the rules. I, myself, would not have lived beyond 4 months if nature had been allowed to take its course. I had no choice in the matter. In fact, though I have suffered almost no health problems since then which is surprising to me. If my life had been a catalogue of disease & consequent suffering I would (I think) have regretted that I was kept alive.

The person who wishes to fight the disease; his or her wishes should be respected too. Whatever help they need to stay alive & live active & happy lives should be accorded to them.

The woman I referred to above has made her decision, it should be honoured & respected.

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