Lung Cancer Patients Living Self-Portrait Series: Chinese ROS1+ Group
This is the first interview I conducted on a friend who is a member of Chinese ROS1+ Group. I wanted to interview him because he has several personal traces that impressed me. Before his diagnosis, he worked in the internet industry. In August 2017 he was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer with metastasis to the brain and lymph nodes. Further genetic tests showed he had the ROS1 mutation. At that time, he was 35 years old. For confidentiality, he asked not to be named. Below is his story:
Life after lung cancer
Christine: What is the biggest change in your life after your diagnosis?
Interviewee: The biggest change is probably my attitude towards life. I feel that work is relatively less important. I am more willing to spend time on what I want to do. Perhaps these (what I want to do) have no special or significant meaning to others. I don't regret these changes. On the contrary, I think this is life -- my life.
Rooted in faith
Christine: What effect does your religious belief have on you after your diagnosis?
Interviewee: I am a Christian. For a while, I was very scared and depressed after the diagnosis. I often could not sleep all night. After all, it is an advanced cancer, and my family's income is not generous. So I cannot afford the best treatment. Of course, this is only one aspect. What's more important is that I have a young son. He is only 6 years old and my parents are getting older. I was afraid of not being able to take care of them when needed.
But one day I met Jesus in my dreams. I confided to him my fears and distress. He was very kind and talked to me. After I woke up, I understood a truth that I cannot decide when I was born because I could not discuss my birthday with my mother. I also cannot decide when I will die. After all, suicide is not an option. Since the above two points are beyond my control, I choose not to care about them anymore. However, from this moment till the day I die, I can decide for myself what kind of person I want to live.
After I accepted this truth, I became enlightened, and I am not depressed and sleepless anymore.
Don't put travel plans on hold
Christine: You have traveled all over China, especially those places far from cities. What do you feel that the travel has brought to you?
Interviewee: I’ve been to so many extraordinary places, such as Tibet (西藏), Yunnan (云南), Xinjiang (新疆). For example, I have been to a small village called Yubeng (雨崩) in Yunnan (云南). It is said that this is the last small village in China without a road connecting it to the outside world. The village is far away from a city and is in the mountains. It’s about 3,700 meters from the bottom of the mountain (3,000 meters above the sea level) into the village. It takes about 9 hours to walk to the village. It is very hard walk but very beautiful.
In fact, I am very grateful to lung cancer in this respect. Without it, I would never imagine traveling to see the great rivers and mountains of my motherland. Each time after traveling, I feel that I really shouldn’t take myself too seriously. In front of nature, we are as small as a pebble.
Reflecting on life before cancer
Christine: What kind of person were you before you were sick?
Interviewee: I am more extraverted -- I like to talk to people. Regardless of work or life, I tend to take everything less seriously, like a play. I often have some crazy ideas, such as about 7 years ago, my friend and I made a hydrogen balloon. We convinced another friend to fly the balloon for dozens of kilometers. This event has been broadcasted on the provincial television stations show called "Strolling around the sky by a balloon".
Do you find that staying zen through your lung cancer diagnosis has helped you in your journey?