Thoughts from the dying about living

Anna Tsang shares her thoughts

How do you feel about being in the palliative unit?

I have always been active and healthy, so my cancer diagnosis was a total shock. But I also feel peace. I think there was a little bit of denial that bad things can’t happen to me without God’s permission, and if he gave permission for the cancer there must be a solution for it. I’ve always believed in miracles, but miracles won’t happen now. So you have to find your place of calm.

Has that been a difficult process?

I’m the type of person where if there is a problem, I think let’s see what we can do about it. I’m a ‘doer’ and a ‘fixer upper’. When I was diagnosed, I don’t think I truly realized. At this point, I do realize the significance of my diagnosis. It’s been a little bit frustrating. I’m so used to doing things for myself, and I can’t even turn my own body now. But even now, I still feel peaceful. What else can you do?

You’re still smiling...

Yes, my family is coming to see me. So I can’t say I’m not loved. Do you know the benefit of going first? I don’t miss anyone. I’m surrounded by all the people who love me. I’m glad I have this time. We’ve had a lot of talks and exchanged a lot of information. I had a full life. My family and a full career [in healthcare].

How are your friends and family coping?

They have been so supportive. I am so lucky to have my friends, children and husband. He tells me that every moment together has been worth it. My husband and I went on an Australian outback trip, and that was a real bonding experience. I had had a stroke, so I trained well so I could climb a mountain. But coming down, I had some trouble. So he would test the ground before I took each step down. He did that for me. It was an amazing trip.

It sounds like you’ve had a happy marriage.

It went by so fast. I decided to stay home for ten years to raise my boys. And he would bring medical articles home to me in case I wanted to work again, just to support me. Or sometimes I would mention, I haven’t had cornbread in a while. And the next day, he would bring me some. It was a subtle, kind love.

What’s the best piece of advice you have for others in a relationship?

When you are angriest, that’s when you shouldn’t say anything.

This stage of life can be difficult. Often people don’t know what to do or say.

They just need to start talking. When we do, sometimes we laugh! We don’t always cry. Communication is really important.

Do you think people spend too much time worrying?

Sometimes you can’t change a situation.

Has religion always been a part of your life?

Yes. I don’t know the future, but I trust that I’m going to a better place.

What would you like people reading this to remember?

Do what you can do. Do your own part.

* This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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