On Death and Dying

By December 26, 2009 Uncategorized

A friend whom I haven’t seen for a very long long time came to visit me. Over the course of our conversation, she asked me in an amazed but wondering tone “why on earth did you choose oncology (as a specialty)? So I told her my story but as I was relating to her, I realized that I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

Being an oncologist is perhaps one of the greatest miracles in my life. My dealings with patients have taught me so many important lessons that I probably would not have learned elsewhere.

Being an oncologist has provided my life so much meaning that it has altered the course of my life and made me realize. My patients have taught me so much.

Dying has never been a pleasant conversation piece. Nobody wants to talk about it. We don’t even want to think about it. It brings us so much sadness, fear, discomfort and anxiety. We avoid thinking about it and all of us hope that we will never get to deal with it. However, all of us, without any exception will deal with it with all certainty.

I intend not to sow fear but on the contrary help see the meaning in this process. Being an oncologist allowed me to come face to face with dying. It forced me to reflect upon it and reevaluate the way I want to live my life. I was placed in a situation where I had to ask myself whether I wanted to ignore it but know that the fear is lurking in my mind, continue pretending that it happens to other people but not me or to the people I love or discover what I can learn from it and contribute to my growth.

The options were agonizing.

I literally became paralyzed. I was able to perform my functions but I felt like I was on auto pilot. I had to do what I was supposed to do but found myself in an empty space. I questioned “what is the point when everything that will do will end in death anyway?”.

The answer did not come in an instant but through a process of searching that I’ve given a lot of effort to. The answer propelled me to move forward and explore new frontiers. It encouraged me to examine my beliefs and challenge them. It has infused my life with so much joy that made me realize there’s no need for drama and suffering in our lives. It has given me a sense of urgency and the audacity to do those things that I wish to do but never got down to doing. It minimized my whining about life but instead focus on all the other wonderful things that I take for granted. It made me choose to live in awe and gratitude. It made me realize that our lives are meant to be filled with peace, joy and happiness.

Has it all been effortless since then? Many of us think that living in this state will remove all the nuances of living and place one in a constant state of joy. The answer is no. It doesn’t eliminate the unpleasant but instead allows you to consciously choose to focus on the joy of living.

Reflecting about my own death has made me realize and value the things that are truly important. It has given me a sense of peace and joy that I never thought possible. Knowing that everything is borrowed allows me to savor every bit of everything. I extend to you this invitation and let us share our discoveries and joys.

Denky Dela Rosa

About Denky Dela Rosa

I am a Doctor of Medicine. My specialty is Internal Medicine (Doctor for adults) with subspecialty in Medical Oncology (Cancer). I am also a Certified Holistic Health Coach graduating from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, New York City

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