Aug 09, 2012|
HK Magazine: Can you tell us more about the cancer?
William Chan: Skin cancer is only a symptom. I was diagnosed at birth and doctors said it’s because of a genetic mutation. It’s like in the first generation of Spiderman [movies]. Over 50 percent of my skin does not have pores; I can’t sweat much and that’s why my body temperature is higher than others’. In fact, the moles are painful. I feel pain with every step I walk. Also, the black moles grow along with me, and they are getting larger and larger. If I don’t die, I may become black one day!
HK: How did your family react?
WC: My parents were puzzled and had no idea what happened to me at first. When I was one month old, they took me to see different doctors. They confirmed it was skin cancer and said I would have no future. The doctors suggested skin grafting, which would take 10 years. My dad refused because he didn’t want me to spend my childhood in a hospital. They have pretty much accepted my “symptom.” One thing bugged my mom, because she was worried that I could not find a girlfriend due to my appearance. I’ve had a few girlfriends, and now she’s told me I have to settle down!
HK: Did you have any unhappy experiences because of the skin cancer?
WC: Some people discriminated against me. When I was in primary school, a teacher told me not to get close to her because she thought the black moles would be infectious. She didn’t know I was a skin cancer patient. But my childhood wasn’t as miserable as many imagine. I had skin cancer right from the beginning, and I accepted that I could die at any time.
HK: Does your “symptom” affect your take on life?
WC: I didn’t study hard and got zero marks on the HKCEE on purpose. I want to tell people that one can succeed and that study is not necessary. Other families would not let this happen, but mine is very tolerant and I can do whatever I want. Also, I don’t think people should mourn death. Death is just a phase of the cycle of life. Living one more day means one step closer to death. People should embrace death happily.
HK: Why did you want to organize a living funeral?
WC: When you think about it, a funeral is to console the alive, not to commemorate the person who passes away. No one knows better what you want to say to your friends and families. The funeral industry is developing some kinds of “personal” funerals, but the choices are very limited. I believe everyone is unique. If funeral is the last “stage” for people, and there is no encore, you should think about what you want to do and what message you want to convey. That’s why everyone should have a living funeral.
HK: What was special about your funeral?
WC: I picked a Chinese setting for my funeral. It started with a speech by an MC. Then, a video chronicling my life was played. The MC told the attendees to keep silent for five minutes and reminisce about the time they spent with me. During the moment of silence, the staff changed the backdrop briskly. The decorations were colorful and a graffiti plaque was even put up. There was live music, too. As a return gift [an envelope containing candy, a coin and a tissue that relatives of the deceased usually give to attendees at traditional funerals], I gave the guests cupcakes with a cartoon self-portrait on them. There was no dress code for the funeral, and I only asked the guests to wear something that fit their mood. Some wore black and white; some wore neon colors; some even wore polka dots. Different people responded differently during the funeral. Some cried, some laughed and some even swore!