“I have cancer and am dying”: An open letter to Rita

Wednesday, 11 Jan 2012 10:34

About Dr. Monica Williams-Murphy (120 Posts)

Dr. Monica Williams-Murphy is a Board Certified Emergency Medicine Physician, who practices in one of the largest emergency departments in the United States at Huntsville Hospital. Through her writing and speaking, she is devoted to transforming the end of life into a time of peace, closure and healing. Media Page


I got the comment you sent in: “I’m Rita. I have cancer and am dying.”

Rita you are a brave woman. You come to this website and state your truth, a truth that we all share but few of us believe. You see, we are all dying, but the vast majority of us are in denial.

Not you, because you know ‘officially’ that you are dying; no doubt a doctor has told you this. The rest of us live in a false state of denial that we will ever be in your shoes. We cannot say to ourselves and to the world, “I’m Monica and I am dying.”  But, what if we could say that and really believed it? Then, Rita, we would become like you—bold, brave, speaking our truth. How relieving!

Last night, my friend Patti gave me a plaque. It reads, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”

These words empower me. They empower me in the same way that your words do—they cause fear to fall away. For most of us, we fail to act or fail to speak the truth because of fear. A life bridled by fear is not authentic life, and there are few things that cause us to lay our fears aside. One of those things is the sure knowledge of coming death. Rita, because you KNOW that you are dying, your living takes on new meaning. You ask yourself, “What is there to be afraid of?” You realize that the answer is, “Nothing.”

Facing your own mortality, you may look back on your life and see that the things you have feared in the past are insignificant from your present perspective. What a gift. If we could all only stand a moment in your shoes, we all might spend our remaining time more wisely.


Thank you for your comment,

Monica Williams-Murphy, MD

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