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With just months left to live, a philosopher writes two books

With just months left to live, a philosopher writes two books

Posted March. 27, 2021 07:18,   

Updated March. 27, 2021 07:18


Makiko Miyano, a philosopher who was given months to live due to metastatic breast cancer at the age of just over 40, asked herself if it was irresponsible for her to decide to write a book when she knew her health was deteriorating from repeated radiation therapy. It was a reflection on what was the meaning of making a long-term promise of writing a book when she did not know if she would be able to keep her promise tomorrow. Nevertheless, she came to the conclusion that she must live her life as herself even in the face of death after contemplating “Is there anyone who takes full responsibility for his or her life?”

It was the medical anthropologist Maho Isono, whom the philosopher talked about the thoughts she experienced from fighting the disease. When Miyano tried to cancel her scheduled lecture after learning that she developed distant metastases, Isono, the organizer of the lecture, talked her out of the decision, saying, “I could die in a car accident before you.” After that conversation, the two female scholars started exchanging letters. This book contains a collection of about 20 letters, where they talked about encounters and diseases, farewell and death no one can escape, and the consistent concerns we face in life even though we know we all die one day.

The book also deals with the prejudice against terminally-ill cancer patients in society and their concerns about their limited identity as a terminally-ill patient. It sheds light on the sad reality, where the life of a person quickly turns into “a life of a patient” due to the dichotomous way of thinking that views the world in two: life and death, health and disease, and guardian and patient.

Miyano was involved in so many lectures and events, and wrote two books even after being diagnosed with a serious illness. She lost consciousness a few hours after writing the preface of this book and died after 15 days. The author shows the way humans can live as themselves until the end through the record of her last days.

Jae-Hee Kim jetti@donga.com