For six years, Orus Coffield has undergone treatment for a rare cancer. Before his death, he wrote his obituary, a grateful reflection on his life that also includes his candid thoughts on how people talk about cancer.
“I’m going to get this out of the way early: Cancer killed me. I know we all scroll through obituaries curious as to why each person died,” Cofield, 43, of Marlboro, Connecticut, wrote in his obituary. “After over 6 years of treatments, anxiety, pain, and occasional moments of hope, it has come to a brutal reality that my body can no longer handle.”
Cofield shared that he has myxoid liposarcoma, a cancer that develops in the cells that store body fat, according to the National Cancer Institute. About 2,000 people are diagnosed in the United States annually, and it occurs most commonly in people ages 20 to 40. Cofield received his diagnosis in 2016.
“This was not what I expected my final chapter to be written,” he wrote. “I had dreams like everyone else of raising my children, of being my wife’s partner for years to come, and of enjoying growing old surrounded by the people I love.”
However, he felt incredibly appreciative of his wife, Jennifer, and his four “amazing” children. He also shares the wisdom he’s gained over the past 43 years.
“My time on this earth may have been shorter than I would have liked,” Coffield wrote, “but a life of rich experiences has yielded some important lessons to be learned.” “These lessons are also simple—be kind, be honest, and be helpful. If any words we say or actions we take don’t meet these standards, it’s best to leave them unsaid and undo them.”
While the obituary includes how grateful Coffield is and what he has learned, it also conveys his frustration with the way people discuss cancer.
“The advantage of writing my obituary is that I get the last word and that is: I never want to discuss my death from cancer in the style of ‘he lost his battle’ or ‘after a long brave fight’ or any other similar language. Cancer is not an invasive like a virus or alien bacteria,” he said. “Cancer is the DNA of my body that’s gone. Who am I fighting against? My body? Or maybe my body is a battlefield, in which case who is the enemy? Now that I’m dead from cancer, does that mean I didn’t fight hard enough or lacked the will to live?” of course not.”
Diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer at the age of 26, Annie Bond said Cofield’s obituary confronts the notion of the cancer patient as a fighter, who often ignores the reality of the disease.
“Cancer really can happen to anyone at any time,” the 33-year-old from Los Angeles told TODAY.com. “Cancer is something that if we could detect and predict it, we would be able to cure it now. But it is something that beats the smartest doctors and the smartest scientists. So the idea that somebody didn’t fight hard enough, I think, is an insult because there’s nothing you can do.” Cure cancer is luck.”