Top 4 Shit that Goes Through your Mind When You Are a Dying Young Person
I must say that a dying young person is pretty uncommon in Singapore. Last check, Singapore’s life expectancy in 2017 for resident males and females is estimated around 80.6 and 85.1 years old respectively. For some, a dying young person would seem like an urban legend you only get to encounter from a subsection of the newspaper, often born out of a tragic news angle. If you think about it, 80 years old of lifespan for a young person seemed like a far distant future.
I used to work with the elderly population in the community: many of these folks are extremely fearful over the idea of a painful, expensive and burdensome death. They may know intuitively that their time is up soon and may make cryptic conversations revolving around their own death. Somehow, the level of acceptance is much better, minus pockets of folks who struggle with family and personal circumstances that make letting go a difficult feat.
After all, in the natural state of things, older adults are expected and more probable to death than other age categories.
A dying young person is a transgression to this perceived order.
You might scroll through your own facebook feed and briefly glance through a young person’s post sharing on chemotherapy treatment. Hold on a minute? Did I just read chemotherapy? The kind of medical treatment that people with cancer (often elderly people) go through and not some kind of new funky medical (read aesthetic) treatment that may go by the same name?
It really doesn’t matter what sort of health condition that will bring young people closer to the scythe of death, but if you are potentially a dying young person (or perceived to be), here are the top 4 serious shit that may go through your mind:
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1. Fuck, it’s Me.
Not a ‘why me?’, but a ‘fuck, it’s me’. It is like when your lecturer requested for a volunteer and the whole hall descends into a deafening silence thereafter. Leaving him with no choice, he whips out the paper attendance list, scans through the column of names and finally calls out one among them.
‘Fuck, it’s me.’
Why is too gentle, too feeble to be used as a form of war-cry to gather your body, mind and soul in unison to fight this life crisis. You are sufficiently educated and calm enough to reason that low risk does not mean no risk (crime watch slogan). Everything remains a possibility, but because you are the person chosen for the fight, so you steel yourself and prep for the long haul.
Swear words are obviously not-preferred speech in the community, but for some young people, it can be extremely therapeutic. Just think about it: when your body produces random pain signals, when your cognitive ability is slowing down, when your food tastes like rock, or when you are losing your weight, hair and everything else – ‘fuck this shit’ is probably the most concise and holistic way to accurately express your feeling fit for a rebel fighting to survive a chaotic battle like this.
Every other description is just too exhausting.
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2. I am not ready. I am just not ready.
The feeling is just like the party is about to start at midnight and your mother calls you on the phone at 11pm, asking you to go back right now.
What the crap? Who goes home on a Saturday night clubbing at 11pm? Frankly, you haven’t even pee at least once in the toilet and people are just warming up to the dance floor or barely started drinking. You want to join in the fun with everyone else and not go back so early.
Your phone start to vibrate incessantly like a device out of control, but you intentionally ignore it. The vibration violently persisted for a long while until it suddenly stopped, as if your wish for it to cease was granted.
The next WhatsApp message on your phone screen swiftly send a horrific chill down your spine.
“I am driving down to Zouk to pick you up now.’
Hell no! No lao bu in the house!
‘OK YOU WIN! I AM COMING BACK!’
Life is like the party and an untimely death is like leaving the party early. “Shit, this is really coming for me”. This refers to the shortening of time, like how you would observe heap of sand slipping out of the hourglass grain by grain. By the time you notice how miserably little of the sand left at the top portion of the hourglass, the feeling of resignation can be overwhelming.
Why this is so unfair? Nobody goes back home so early!
I am not ready. I am just not ready.
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3. I fear my family cannot accept an unfavourable outcome
I recalled an old conversation I had with a young person who has a life-limiting illness. She came to me and asked about Advance Care Planning (ACP), of which I was glad to share my knowledge and expertise.
‘Could I get this sorted out alone?’
‘Certainly you could, but it would be less effective because your parents will likely to be the one to make decision on your behalf when you loses mental capacity. And without family discussion, they may not adhere to your preference, especially if there are decisional differences.’
I deeply empathise her struggle because there are many young people struggling to raise ‘what if’ conversations with their family. Such conversation brings great anxiety for both parties – the one to say it and ones to hear it. What’s often misunderstood is that ACP is not a suggestion that people have given up hope on living. Instead, it is to create the process of having important conversation and documenting those communication before we are no longer able to speak.
Clearly you want to live on, but you are also aware that you don’t have control over your outcome. So you focus on areas that you could still have control over.
And getting your ACP sorted out seemed like a good example.
It is often through a process like this that people get to balance the stark reality of life with the desire for a best possible outcome. Or at least voice out what really matters to you at the end of the day.
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4. Heroic Project Anyone?
For a young person who may have yet to make their mark in the world, thinking of how to spend their remaining days can be an intensive calculation. After all, there are many things the young person may desire to experience, but every precious moment taken away may be a trade-off for quality time spent with family and other important people.
There are also a small number of young Singaporeans who may desire to create something for this world that would survive beyond them. They seek to undertake a personal pursuit: documenting their remaining journey, create public awareness of their illness, promote organ donation or plan their legacy and other heroic projects.
Dying young may be seemingly senseless, but the idea of transcending this very senseless circumstances and potentially making it a personal mission that makes sense may briefly swim through your thoughts.
To finish strong matters. And you want to finish strong until the very end.
P.S: Write to me if you are a potentially dying young person undertaking your personal heroic project, I would love to hear your story and/or initiative.
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