Everyone Wants To Go Heaven. But Nobody Wants To End Game
Perhaps Tony Stark put it best: part of the journey is the end. End Game. And there is a hidden caveat to this saying: the process near the end isn’t always the easiest of experience. Do you remember moments in your childhood when you were having the craziest fun of your life and your mother wants you to go back home now? You become visibly annoyed and possibly bargained for more time.
‘I don’t want to go back home yet.’
Dying is somewhat similar; not everyone wants to go home… yet.
Where Does End Game Take Us?
Photo by Renee Fisher on Unsplash
Our awareness that we are dying will take us to two broad pathways
One side is that of acceptance, gratefulness and to be present-focused. The other extreme belongs to that of depression, past attachment and in-authenticity.
Most people fall in the middle. Depending on situation, people often fluctuating between these two ends.
I have a case (let’s call him Pol) who had stage 4 lung cancer. As far as current statistics goes, the mortality rate for lung cancer is pretty high. According to an article in straits times in October 2018, the 5-year survival rate for Lung Cancer Patient is about 5% or 16% if you use immunotherapy. But immunotherapy is freaking expensive – the treatment ranges from S$7,000 to S$15,000 every three weeks, depending on the dosage. And if you base it on current opinion to continue treatment for two years or more, a two-year treatment regime will set you back by $121,000 – $260,000 (not inclusive of chemotherapy and other add on).
And the irony is that after paying so much money, you don’t get full cure. It merely buys you more time in exchange before end game happens. On average, lung cancer patients who respond to initial treatment might live anywhere between one to three years as compared to others who usually only have less than one year to live.
Lengthening lifespan and the cost of treatment are usually two key indicators science measure as outcome of effective treatment. It says nothing about the burden of care on the family, the experience of managing side effects, the psychological stress of receiving treatments, reviews, seeing multiple medical professionals in hospitals or how much time it takes away from the normalcy of life.
It is obvious that Pol does not want to die. He believes that there is a place for him in heaven, but he does not want to go home right now. He worries about his surviving wife and other earthly concerns surrounding his pending departure. More importantly, he hates the feeling that death is not a journey others can accompany him.
End game is a lonely feeling.
Photo by Alexandre Croussette on Unsplash
‘Mark, you will never understand how it feels like.’
Working as a social worker for almost a decade, almost every one of my client facing personal crisis will say something of that effect. Be it death, poverty, or separation.
End game is lonely because we are forced by our circumstances to make meaning out of this senseless situation. The sole burden is on us to make some sense out of something meaningless like dying.
Pol wants to change the outcome of his death sentence. He shared that he cannot depend on humans anymore. Only God can save him from end game.
As we continued chatting, I realised he was depressed because his physical condition wasn’t improving. Possibly, he was viewing God as a tool to save him from the dreaded inevitable. Not just a guaranteed place in heaven will ease him. God must perform miracle for him. God must save him from the jaws of death.
I spoke to Pol’s wife and asked what she reckoned was important for him right now. She paused for a moment.
‘He wants to spend all his time with me. As much as possible’
I don’t know what is in God’s mind. And I can’t carry the burden of death for him. Nobody can. But I shared about Advance Care Planning and the educating about the myth of palliative care. Focusing on quality of life to spend quality time with loved ones does seem like a reasonable path to fulfill this need.
She seemed to be deep in thoughts.
‘I have taken too much time from him. You better go back to him soon,’ I said and gestured to her that I will take my leave now.
End Game is Fine – Dying is hard
Featured Photo by Mantas Hesthaven on Unsplash
Andrew is a young cancer patient suffering from Aggressive Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. At age of 32, Cancer is not what you would usually expect a young person to go through. At this time of his interview, Andrew has only about four to six months to live, should his current treatments fail.
Andrew posted a quote on his facebook page, which I will requote:
The greatest lesson in life is to learn how to die. And when the final examination comes, it is really, the only thing that matters.
You can read more of his story here.
Most people can deal with death, but not many can deal with dying. The irony is that once you are aware of your end game, you will often start living your remaining days meaningfully. When that happens, you are no longer dying. You are someone trying to live life to the fullest.
Singapore Hospice Council had launched their public awareness campaign about Hospice Care recently. This is part of a broader campaign to get people to be aware the right value of palliative care and to dispel common myths.
You can do your part by helping to share the message in your Instagram: #LendYourInstagram
Featured Instagram Photo Taken from Singapore Hospice Council.