Tuesday, May 31, 2016
At the age of 20, Russell Kaplan, then a student at the University of Cape Town, was diagnosed with lung cancer, which plunged him and his family into a state of crisis. What follows is the story of his journey from fighting the cancer as an enemy, to the acceptance of his dying.
Russell’s story is based on several sources. These include the reflections of his mother, Andrea Judge, a clinical social worker, who supported him through this journey. It included some difficult experiences with elements of the South African medical profession’s approach to cancer patients in the 1980s. It also included discovering the complementary healthcare approaches that were becoming available. Integral to his process was the family's support, from his dad, Dermod, and his teenage sisters, Delia and Melanie.
Through poetry, Russell found creative and emotional expression for his experiences, and a collection of his poems are to be found here in the Resources section of this site.
In all, Russell’s courage in refusing to submit to an overly rational, highly-pressured medical approach, and instead be fully aware and in charge of his own dying process, shows through.
It was his wish that the insights and learnings gained by himself and those who supported him, be shared with others facing similar circumstances.
Russell at 21, probably the last photo of him ever taken, when he was in remission and his hair had fully grown back.