Dear friends, fellow members, ladies & gentlemen,​

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share with you how I rationalised and learnt to accept death. Before I begin, may I have your understanding that the views, opinions and the comments, expressed or implied, in my talk are absolutely my personal, derived from my own experiences. You are free to agree or disagree as you wish. My journey in this taboo subject of death began about 3 years ago in late 2009 when I was critically ill and hospitalised where the doctors diagnosed I had only 3 to 6 months to live. Here I used the word, "accept" and not "manage" because initially I was horrified and unprepared to die. Gradually as I rationalised with an opened positive mind, I began to see death in a different light, more meaningful and less fearful. I arrived at this conclusion using the following considerations to remove the psychological barriers and fear that make death a taboo subject for many people. Having done so, I could then come to term and accept death, a certainty of life as TC, our Chairman, rightly phrased it.


When a life threatening disease incapacitates a person to a vegetative condition, painfully stripped off all his basic qualities of life and with no cure in sight, he is compelled to question if life is still meaningful for him to struggle on. In some extreme cases, he may lose all h​is desire to live and force to accept death as the only means available to free himself from the endless torment which only he alone can feel and understand. I was placed in the same situation in 2009 when I was discharged from hospital in a wheelchair, with a feeding tube in my stomach, struggling to talk and in constant pain, I hopelessly perceived my life insignificant and worthless. Whenever my pain escalated to an unbearable level, I became suicidal, in the belief that extending such a worthless and painful life is tantamount to prolongation of mine and my family's sufferings. I began to perceive death as a relief for my sufferings as I had nowhere to turn to for help until I was placed under palliative care. If a dog is badly injured or sick and suffering, the vet will put it to sleep humanely. Ironically, I often wonder why for human beings, merciful termination of life is so unacceptable in our society and that suicide is classified a punishable crime. In contrast, some other countries, assisted suicide, known as "euthanasia" is practised to mercifully terminate a painful life under stringent guidelines.


As I look back, I have had, admittedly, a reasonably good life without being rich or successful. I married an excellent wife, loving, caring and well educated. We shared many affectionate and wonderful things in life. We have a 24 year-old son, a 2nd year undergraduate, an energetic young man whom, I am confident, will mature to be a productive citizen. With an excellent wife and a good grown-up son, I feel contented and ready to confront death anytime without regrets.


Having witnessed my sister-in-law's immense sufferings taking care of her disease stricken and incapacitated husband, I vowed not to let my wife and my son suffer the same way as my sister-in-law did. Should I fall ill and should my illness render me completely in a vegetative condition, I would not want to struggle on just to stay alive, to prolong my own and my wife's sufferings. I would prefer, under these painful circumstances, to make a permanent exit and spare my family the torment of taking care of me just to preserve a piece of vegetable.


I would be very unwilling to accept death if my family still needs my financial and moral support, worst still if there are young children around. Fortunately for me, my situation is the opposite. My wife is still in her early 50s, healthy, financially independent and fully self reliant. Our only son will graduate in a couple of years and he, too, will be socially and financially independent, leaving me with no more family responsibilities. Should I die anytime, I would depart peacefully leaving behind no unfinished business.


I am neither a religious nor a spiritual person by any measure, but I do believe that there is a God who has created this planet in which all living things have a limited but variable life through an intertwined sequence of birth and death. There is absolutely no exception to this law of nature. Just imagine if human beings, animals, reptiles, insects and plants live eternally, this planet will be grossly overcrowded in no time. To prevent this from occurring, nature utilizes death to limit life and birth to renew life. The old will have to exit via death and make way for the young to enter via birth. This cycle of renewal is what life is all about. Having rationalised death as a natural process for the renewal of life, my perspective of dying is now less horrific and more amenable.


Tonight as I am standing here speaking to you, I am not about to die. But it does not mean that I am healthy and free from problems. The truth is I still suffer from constant pain, a debilitating health and a host of physical/medical problems such as unable to eat, a very stiff neck and jaw, difficulty in talking, numbness in the f​ace and lips, a very dry mouth, teary eyes, semi deaf and unstable walking. These problems are regrettably caused by the long term side effects of radiotherapy followed by 2 major surgeries performed ironically to help me to extend and enhance my life. Obviously, it has backfired to some extent. Nevertheless, having come back from close to dying in 2009 and being enlightened by what I just shared with you, I have finally learnt to accept death as natural as the sun rises. The fear of dying no longer has a place in my mind as I look forward to live my remaining life in peace and harmony with all things around me. I am contented to pass my days peacefully tucked in the warm comfort of my family until such time my COE expires and time to meet my Creator. In the process, I have also openly discussed the topic of death with my family. Today, I am glad that they are more receptive and comfortable with the subject of death.

Contributed by Bernard Ng / NPC survivor
Dated 6 July 2012
Survivor since 2003

We hope you benefit from the sharing by the authors. As each of us may respond differently to the experience shared by our survivors, do exercise your discretion. The articles are strictly the personal views of the author. It does not represent the views of the NPC Support Group and its members, nor that of the National Cancer Centre of ​​Sing​apore​ (NCCS) and SingHe​alth. They therefore take no liability or responsibility for the content of the articles.

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