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Dying online

BY KATHY LATOUR
PUBLISHED TUESDAY, JANUARY 14, 2014
Kathy LaTour blog image

There has been quite the outcry in the past two days about the choice of breast cancer patient Lisa Adams to tweet and blog her dance with death. I don't say dance lightly because Lisa is a writer, and to read her blog is to see her take the intricate steps required in life's final tango to sidestep the pain of her numerous metastases.

I haven't seen her tweets, but I can imagine that someone with such control of the language is able to say a lot in 140 characters.

Whether blog or tweet, it's her decision to die so publicly that prompted writer and columnist Emma Keller to take her to task in a column on Jan. 8 in the Guardian. Keller, who has also had a run with cancer, which she has also blogged about, is somehow offended that Adams is dying so publicly. When I read Keller's column, I admit that I had a fairly strong reaction to it: So where is it written that there are rules on how to die?

Adams concedes that tweeting helps with the pain because it gets her mind off the pain. And she is unapologetic that she doesn't go on and on about her children in the way that, it seems, Keller wants her to. I think I can see where Adams is coming from. Dying is a singular journey, and right now it's between her and her body to make each day count.

If it had stopped there, it wouldn't have become the firestorm that it did. Personally, I chalk it up to someone who has had breast cancer reading her worst fear that her cancer might come back and she might end up where Adams is. It's the explanation for calling herself "embarrassed at my voyeurism." And in the next sentence she asks if there shouldn't be boundaries for this kind of experience, and in that I read, "please go and die quietly so I don't have to look at what I might have to endure." Then she asks again, "Why am I so obsessed?"

She is obsessed for the same reason we all are with death. We want to know how to do it. And for women with metastatic breast cancer, all the books from experts still aren't enough to figure out their own final turns if they know it's in their future. What Adams has done is offer women who may be facing the same fate some options, which takes a lot of courage if you ask me.

Keller's husband Bill also had to join the discussion. He jumps in with his own column about the joys of recognizing when it's time and letting go as his father-in-law did.

He waxes prolific on going quietly into the night when your time comes and accepting the inevitable.

Come on, Bill. Who are you to tell someone how to die? And to compare an elderly man at the end of his life with a young mother is just plain crazy. But even then I tell myself to shut up. Because when it is all said and done, unless you have died before your time and left small children when your life's wish is to raise them well you have no right to say anything. If it upsets you, stop reading.

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