the obituary of a man in which he describes what it is like to die of cancer at the age of 43

Candidly tackles the problem of talking about illness as a battle

Orus Coffield

11/01/2023

Updated at 7:01 p.m.

For six years, Orus Coffield underwent treatment for a rare cancer. Before she died, she wrote his own obituary of her, a grateful reflection of her life that also includes her candid thoughts on how people talk about cancer.

“Cancer killed me. I know we all flip through obituaries curious to know each person’s cause of death,” Coffield, 43, of Marlborough, Connecticut, wrote in his obituary. After more than 6 years of treatments, anxiety, pain, and occasional moments of hope, I realized the brutal truth that my body could no longer carry on.

Coffield shared that had myxoid liposarcoma, a cancer that develops in the cells that store fat in the body. Approximately 2,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with this disease each year, and it occurs most often in people ages 20 to 40. cofffield received his diagnosis in 2016.

“This is not how I expected my final chapter to be written,” he wrote. “I dreamed like everyone else of raising my children, being my spouse’s partner for years to come, and enjoying growing old surrounded by the people I love.”

Still, he was incredibly grateful for his wife, Jennifer, and their four “wonderful children.” He also shares the wisdom that he gained throughout his 43 years.

“My time on this Earth may have been shorter than I would like, but a life filled with enriching experiences has resulted in important lessons learned,” Coffield wrote. “Those lessons are also simple: be kind, be honest, and be helpful. If the words we say or the actions we take cannot meet those criteria, then they are best left unsaid and undone.”

While the obituary includes how grateful Coffield was and what he learned, it also aired his frustration with the way people talk about cancer.

“One advantage of writing my own obituary is that I have the last word and it is this: I never want my death from cancer to be discussed in the style of ‘he lost his battle’ or ‘after a long and brave fight’ or any other similar language. Cancer is not an invader like a foreign virus or bacteria,” he shared. “Cancer is my own body’s DNA gone crazy. Who am I fighting against? My own body? Or maybe my body is a battlefield, in which case, who is the enemy? And now that I’ve died of cancer, does this mean that I didn’t fight hard enough or that I lacked the will to live? Of course, no”.


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