Tales of Life & Death – Dealing with personal uncertainty

Someone I love is fighting with cancer. I have therefore decided to make that person, their life, and their battle my priority over the next few months. Under the name “Tales of Life & Death,” I’ll be sharing more from this journey.


In my conversations of the past few months, people have repeatedly applauded my decision to prioritize the health of said loved one. Upon hearing the diagnosis in late November, I hit the brakes on my own career, left the company I helped co-found, and temporarily relocated to where the patient is living. As much as it looked like a tough decision that would merit applause, it really was just the most obvious thing I could do – and wanted to do. 

Apart from the fear I felt for the patient, the entire situation evoked a lot of personal fears. I was anxious about how this would all play out for me, about how long I would need to put my own life on hold, and when it would it be morally and ethically justifiable for me to continue with my life. Let alone what life would hold for me once I was ready to hit resume. 

The past few months were not easy. Being unemployed was a frightening thought. Having to deal with a serious illness of a loved one is insanely stressful. And as a social person, knowing that I’d find myself in an environment where I didn’t know many people was scary. But there I was, knowing I was entering a difficult period in my life that had no clear timeline. 

As I was embarking on this journey, a friend advised me to approach this new phase in my life with curiosity, and not so much with anxiety. Yes, there were all these things that I knew were coming and that scared me – the “known knowns.” But there were also so many things that I didn’t know were coming my way – the “unknown unknowns.” How could I know how this period would change me the better? How could I predict how my priorities might change? I just couldn’t.

But in an attempt to prepare myself for these good things to enter my life, and to train my eyes to see them, I sat down and wrote an extensive list of how this entire situation could end up being a blessing. I was basically trying to “brace for impact.” Being away from China might make me appreciate it more. By taking velocity out of my life I might be able to gain clarity of thought. Facing serious illness might help me see what truly matters in life, and what doesn’t. 

Now, three months into the journey, the patient’s situation has become stable. We were able to move from chemotherapy (carpet-bombing the body with chemicals) to a much less aggressive therapy called immunotherapy (more like a “sniper” that goes after the bad cells). At the same time, the past three months have allowed me develop a business idea that I deem worth pursuing as my next project. 

My loved one’s journey isn’t over, but it is now at a point where I can allow myself to hit resume – a moment I didn’t expect to come so fast. Equipped with a lot of élan, I look back on the past three months not as time that I lost, but a much needed break to make sure I am not just running in my life for the sake of running, but that I am running into the right direction to begin with.

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