Last week a beloved and popular DJ, Mark Pilgrim, passed away after sharing, bravely and nobly, his fight with cancer, almost right to the end on all platforms. I watched from the sidelines, silently cheering him on, hoping against all odds that he could beat cancer. Even though we saw his vivid decline, in post after post, his body deteriorating rapidly and his eyes sinking deeper into his face, we kept hoping with him that if we just all believed enough, he would not die, but would get to walk his daughters down the aisle one day. We needed a win. We needed a hero.


Mark’s fight with cancer almost became tangible for us all. I watched his struggle play out on social media and got the distinct feeling that a huge amount of this society identified with his fight so much, as it represented our own insurmountable obstacles. His battle became our battle. His wrestling with an illness morphed into our own war against enemies seldom defeated. Maybe we hoped that if he could beat this horrendous disease and make a full recovery, we could revive our businesses despite the economy and the loadshedding; that we could bring dead marriages back to life, that we could repair relationships, stop crime, fill the potholes, end the corruption and bring back hope.


I’ve been reading the comments on posts and articles about Mark Pilgrim written by colleagues, friends and loyal fans. I’ve held my heart as I saw the messages after each time he posted pictures of himself receiving treatments, draining his lungs, resting. There is a common thread: fighting, fighting, fighting… and how we as a people seem to value that most .The comments are filled with: “You are a soldier!”, “You are so brave. Keepfighting!”, “Keep on fighting!”, “You’ve got this, warrior!”


Do we dare ask whether it was worth the fight? He inspired thousands by taking on this battle with every treatment, therapy, drug and plan imaginable. He fought to the bitter, bitter end. On Christmas day, when he posted a photo of his little girls spending the day in hospital with him, I thought of Madiba, spending each Christmas in another type of prison cell. That was a different struggle, but his children also lost a dad because of the fight for which he signed. I suppose we choose our battles and after weighing it up, we either surrender or we put on our armor and approach the enemy.


In one of our rooms this week, there was a different kind battle raging. A guest has decided not to have treatment for her cancer again. She has done the radiation, the immunotherapy and the chemo, but her cancer came back and viciously so. There are treatments in place that can prolong her life, but she does not want to go through the horror of what she knows only too well. She told me, “This time I am choosing quality time over quantity.” Her four children are furious. They want her to fight. They feel it is without a doubt the right thing to do… for them. She calls me in to the room every time the kids come, almost as a spokesperson. She has made up her mind. Full stop. She has had a beautiful and full life and choosing to gently slip away while the team keeps her comfortable and pain-free is not a cowardly cop-out. I wonder why we think it is? I wonder if Mark had the ability to look into a crystal ball and see he was going to die anyway, whether he would not have opted to leave all the treatments and just spend time with his kids, leaving them with a whole bank of memories of beauty and joy? What a difficult, actually impossible, choice he had to make.


I know if I got a terminal diagnosis now, I would also fight. I do not think I am ready to slip away gently into the night. At the moment, I have a close friend in ICU who has been fighting desperately to survive and despite me seeing her frail, ventilated body each day, I am not ready for her to give up yet. I am standing by her bedside each morning willing her to keep soldiering on and overcoming the odds stacked so high, and so unfairly, against her.


I feel like there is no easy answer here. To fight or not to fight; to fight for quality time or quantity time, but I comfort myself in the knowledge that either way, there will be moments of incredible beauty and grace in both journeys. Sometimes the healing does not take place in our bodies, but in our souls through this brutal journey, and other times we receive that wonderful miracle here on earth where there is a complete recovery. Which battle takes more courage? That, I do not know.








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