Writers tackle own terminal diseasesIf every cloud really does have a silver lining and there is indeed a light at the end of every tunnel, having an outlet to address death face-on might have been what saved Moon Kyung-ae from collapsing on her weakest days. “I confront my everyday life with new-found hope. Sweeping the lawn and taking care of my flowerpots might be worthless chores for some people, but for me, it feels like a blessing in disguise,” wrote Mr. Moon, winner of the 6th annual literary award for authors fighting terminal diseases.
Ms. Moon has suffered from Parkinson’s disease since 1979. Her writing, titled “Confessions of a Cyborg,” won the grand prize over 112 entries at this year’s competition.
The award is jointly organized by Inje University’s Paik Hospital and the Dong-A Ilbo, and sponsored by Hanguk MSD.
Four judges, including poet Shin Gyeong-lim, novelist Lee Gyeong-ja, and poet Suh Hong-wan, also a director of the National Cancer Center, examined the work of amateur writers who all have incurable diseases. The pieces are mostly essays and self-reflections on the writers’ journey from the time they discovered they had their particular disease.
The award ceremony took place on Monday at Paik Hospital. Paik Nak-whan, chief director of the hospital, said, “Six years have passed since the first award ceremony and I still think it is a great idea. Suffering in itself is a beautiful, humbling experience and to express this through writing is valuable in my opinion.”
This year, 15 people won awards ― the grand prize of 3 million won, ($3,156), two runners-up (500,000 won), two second runners-up (300,000 won), and eight others (100,000 won).
In attendance were around 50 people, including the 13 winners and their families, hospital employees, doctors, organizers and three judges.
Mr. Shin said about the winners, “There were a lot of pieces that were too ‘written.’ I selected the ones that I thought showed honesty and a spark for life.”
He added, “The writings are so emotional and strong that the stories will be relevant to anybody.”
Kim Hak-jun, the president of Dong-A Ilbo, said, “These are records of hope. They evoke a certain will for life, for other people who are going through the same experiences.”
Ms. Moon explained her philosophy, saying, “I like this quote by writer Ryu Shi-va: ‘If you can replace one minute with 60 seconds, you are an adult.’ I think he is talking about endurance. I don’t know if this is a good thing to say or not, but really, during the time I suffered from this disease, all I did was endure. I tried to endure everything, from people’s perceptions, to physical pain and the guilt I felt for my family. I think in the end that the only thing left to do, is to give it your best shot.”
Her son, Chung Su-rin, said, “Because I didn’t know whether or not my mother was going to make it through, I was always an insecure child. But going through this experience with her, I feel as though her disease made me a stronger person, in that I am not so concerned with petty things anymore, like what other people think.”
In contrast to her fragile frame, Ms. Moon talked with a passionate and lively facial expression, face and eyes aglow, explained her plans beyond this award: “I have about 800 pages of my writing. I want to publish a book in the future.”
by Cho Jae-eun
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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