Ho Wai-On 何蕙安 aka Ann-Kay Lin

Song & Dance of a 3-Time Cancer Survivor

Act 7


On the ward the heroine faces the stark realities of illness and death.  She is distressed by a nurse who fails to respond to her needs and by certain other patients who manage to be annoyingly cheerful in the aftermath of major surgery.  With all the traumas of treatment confronting her, death itself seems to be the last and least worry. And so she is tempted by thoughts of suicide. But how?  And who might help?  She decides to allow her artist self to take over.


Heroine’s opening speech:

I think the trauma of cancer comes not so much from fear of death as fear of major, mutilating operations, stressful treatments and very unpleasant side effects, and the prolonged suffering before death.  I’ve heard fellow cancer patients saying they’d rather die than go through all that, especially if they feel they might not have long to live anyway.  The thought of finishing it all had also crossed my mind – but like everything in life, nothing is that simple…



There’s commotion in the ward –      

the woman in that bed over there,

nurses took her body away;

and are cleaning, making up the bed

for a new patient.


Roulette wheel,

Musical beds!


Now that I am diagnosed with cancer

Some of the things I see in this ward that have frightened me so          

might happen to me.

I can’t bear it!

Chorus/male lead:

Death and suffering have become a reality.


How could that woman look so happy

when she was wheeled out of the ward

with her new limbs on her lap?

Chorus/male lead:

What’s the point of living like that?


Another woman who has annoyed me so     

calling me 'Madame Butterfly' for days

because I am Oriental,

is now in constant pain,

and someone says she won’t make it.

Chorus/male lead:

What’s the point of prolonging suffering?


The bell for calling the nurse is not working.

I was so thirsty after the operation but could not leave the bed.

When a visitor alerted a nurse to come to me,

I asked for water.

I waited and waited…

but she forgot all about it until the next morning.

If I were dying and had to rely on another’s mercy…     


Chorus/male lead:

How dreadful to be helpless,

relying on another’s mercy.


I shudder when I walk past Funeral Directors;

I have never felt like this before.

I read articles about death that make me feel sick,

I have never, never wanted to before.     

Chorus/male lead:

She needs a holiday –

But, single or return?          


Beachy Head, or abroad –

where someone holds your hand and makes the going easy?

But hell!  I have no money.

I can’t afford someone to hold my hand,

and one needs courage, whether to die or to live!


She hears fairground organ sounds.

She sees her childhood in flashbacks.

She sees swings and roundabouts.      


Yet another woman in the ward

who can’t stop talking about her life,

but she has no life to talk about –

she just talks repeatedly about places she has lived

“from a two-up two-down, to this lodging and that”,

not like how I have lived.

Why does that woman want to live?

Chorus/male lead:

Is she approaching,

even running towards, Death?

To embrace him,

to get it all over with?

All because of her bad experience in that ward!

Heroine’s final speech (smile):

That was then,

I don’t feel any of this anymore.

No time for such thoughts –

I am writing an opera!

_ _ _

The Heroine decides to read up on cancer so as to be able to make informed choices.

She finds many cancer cells visually beautiful.

See next, Act 8:




Cancer cells, beautiful !?

She must really be an artist!

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