Sunday, May 27, 2018

Going through Hell?

     If you're going through hell, 
     keep going.
     That is no place to stop!                          John Randall Dunn (paraphrased)

     Below are the words of a 35 year old, diagnosed with terminal lung cancer shortly before he would have completed neurosurgery training:
     "... yet now I felt that to understand my own direct experiences, I would have to translate them back into language. Hemingway described his process in similar terms: acquiring rich experiences, then retreating to cogitate and write about them. I needed words to go forward.
     And so it was literature that brought me back to life during this time. The monolithic uncertainty of my future was deadening; everywhere I turned, the shadow of death obscured the meaning of any action. I remember the moment when my overwhelming unease yielded, when that seemingly impassable sea of uncertainty parted. I woke up in pain, facing another day - no project beyond breakfast seemed tenable. I can't go on, I thought, and immediately, its antiphon responded, completing Samuel Beckett's seven words, words I had learned long ago as an undergraduate: I'll go on. I got out of bed and took a step forward, repeating the phrase over and over: 'I can't go on. I'll go on.'
     That morning, I made a decision: I would push myself to return to the OR. Why? Because I could. Because that’s who I was. Because I would have to learn to live in a different way, seeing death as an imposing itinerant visitor but knowing that even if I’m dying, until I actually die, I am still living."
        Paul Kalanithi. “When Breath Becomes Air.” Random House, 2016.

Precious Life

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