My uncle is dying. In less than a month, he would probably be gone. The doctors say he’s dying from cancer. But, in truth, is he’s dying from fear and superstition.
It was almost two years ago that he was diagnosed with kidney cancer. A low-danger tumor. He was invited to schedule an operation. A simple operation. But my uncle panicked. He contacted a Chinese herbalist, who promised him that, indeed, no operation would be necessary. Those western doctors, she assured him, know nothing. All he has to do is keep a healthy life style and take her herbs. A year went by. His pains grew stronger and more frequent. The herbalist did some psychic tests and “discovered” that his tumor is shrinking. These are shrinkage pains, she told him. And he believed her for a simple reason: he was afraid of going through an operation. “It is risky”, he kept saying to everyone who would listen. “One can die from complications. One can go through an anesthesias and never wake up”.
It took the tumor months to grow malignant. It enered his spine, most of his abdomen, and both legs. The pain is now so excruciating that my uncle can barely speak. He has been given morphine, because no other sedative is strong enough to deal with the pain. But his Chinese herbalist convinced him that morphine is bad for his health (remainder: the man is dying!), so he takes none of it. Even now, when his only hope is experimental hypothermia combined with chemotherapy, he still clings desperately to a strange “healer” who promised him imminent cure with crystals.
As much as I would like to strangle that Chinese herbalist with my bare hands, as much as I loath her, I do not think that she is the essence of the trouble. If it were not for her, it would have been another healer, a UFO, or even a fatalist priest. The trouble stems only from this fact: that my dear uncle kept looking for comfort, where he should have been looking for a cure. The “western” way, with hospitals, and doctors, and operations, demands that he grows up to become an adult, and that he faces inconvenient truths (his mortality, his sickness). He would have non of that. He demanded comfort. He got death.