[OUTLOOK]It’s a blessing just to be alive

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[OUTLOOK]It’s a blessing just to be alive

My mother-in-law had surgery for lung cancer one and a half years ago. Lately, she felt nausea and dizziness, so she had MRIs taken. A tumor of 4.2 centimeters in diameter was found in her brain.
Her doctor thought that cancer cells in her lung had moved to her brain and said the brain tumor was pressing the brain stem. The other night, she had surgery to get rid of the tumor.
I feel she is my own mother, because my own parents have long passed away. I saw my mother-in- law in the intensive care unit before she was transferred to the operating room.
She had put on make-up and had her eyes gently closed. Tears welled up in her eyes. I cannot even imagine how she had felt before surgery at the age of 70. Her skull would be split open in order to get rid of the tumor.
However, she had a strong will for life. After about three hours the surgery was finished, earlier than expected. I thought that boded well. But the doctor did not look that way. His look hinted something was wrong.
The doctor said the tumor was stuck to the membrane so hard that it was difficult to remove, so he had to wrap up the surgery with about10 percent of the tumor remaining. I felt thankful for his honesty.
Right away, she had a test with CT scans. Her brain did not look good after the surgery. The doctor said the following few days would be crucial for her recovery.
It was hard on the family, but it was even harder for her.
Chang Young-hee, a professor at Sogang University, said having cancer is an important part of one’s experience in life. She, too, suffered from cancer. She said that when people think of cancer patients, they usually imagine emaciated people with sunken eyes stuck in bed, without any hope or will for life.
Cancer patients, however, often fight back. They will, for example, wear smart clothes, nice make-up and display twinkling eyes, reflecting a strong willpower to do anything to fight against the cancer. They do so because they do not want to show that they are sick. They also want to present evidence that they are alive as a way to show their respect for life.
Ms. Chang said that when a cancer patient is hospitalized even for one day, the person feels strong camaraderie with other patients, regardless of their status, wealth and occupation. A rich person, a professor, a legislator and a butcher feel like they are passengers on the same ship in a storm, heading for the same destination―that is, life.
Inside the ship, they talk about issues totally different from those they used to talk about before they had cancer. They do not care how to make a big fortune, how to get a promotion, why a certain politician acts in a certain way or whose son went to which college.
They talk about a whole new world in a totally new language. Money, power and status mean nothing when people are struggling for life.
Most of us forget to be grateful for life. We forget to treasure it. We forget the greatness and wonders that life offers to us. We too often take things for granted.
We often forget how big a blessing it is just to be able to eat and digest and how great it is to go to the bathroom regularly and to sleep well. We forget how wonderful it is to be able to walk with our two legs, to see the world with our own eyes and hear sounds with our own ears.
Being alive is a wonderful blessing ― this is what my mother-in-law taught me while struggling against cancer.
Living and dying are not ours to decide. To enrich and complete life, however, is our duty. Let’s try to feel more and embrace more.
Let’s be amazed more and love and help more during our short time on this planet.
Let’s make joy out of life and be livelier because being alive is a blessing in itself.

* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.


by Chung Jin-hong
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