It’s our own personal journey, as we see it. And hopefully, this issue offers clarity.
Faced with terminal cancer, he has chosen not to fear death, but to live out his days as joyfully as he can.
→ By Stacey Makiya
“They won’t let me die,” says Mickey Weems. He’s speaking about friends who support his choice to live fiercely and fearlessly with cancer. “Friends are our rock. They help us get to victory or final moments.”
Last March, Weems was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer. But while most people try every means to buy more time, Weems is forgoing chemotherapy. “I know this disease will eventually kill me. It’s in my cells, it’s part of me,” he says. “Chemotherapy would drastically change my quality of life. I want my remaining time to be enjoyable.”
“I know this disease will eventually kill me. It’s in my cells, it’s part of me.”
It’s heart-wrenching to hear this—but then Weems starts talking about dancing, something he’s loved since he was a child. “On the weekends I go to an after-hours club and dance to house music until dawn,” he says, his voice lifting. “Everyone is having a good time and the joy level increases as the night goes on.”
Weems hasn’t chosen to surrender. He’s chosen to live. “I get out of bed every morning—that’s important—and do things I want to do. Lift weights, talk online, meet up with friends. Today I had candy-coated popcorn. That’s a treat.”
Without chemo, the cancer is spreading. One day his bird escaped from its cage and caught the attention of his cat. Weems rose to intercede and fell to the floor. The pain was excruciating. In that moment, he says, he knew cancer had crippled his daily routine. He quit teaching English at the University of Hawai‘i and started exploring new possibilities. “My life companion got me into fire dancing,” he says. “It’s exciting, I’m learning to spin a staff and switch hands. I haven’t burned myself yet.” His podcast, Mickey Is Dying, lets him share his journey in hopes of helping—and healing—others.
On his nightstand next to his Ph.D. certificate is a blue bag. It holds a pill for medically assisted suicide. Weems stares at it as we talk. “I will take it one day. Right now, I’m living by force of will and the aloha of my friends,” he says. “Cancer was the best thing that happened to me. I apologize if this offends anyone. I know it can be lonely and devastating. Please contact me if you need a friend. For myself, things became clearer, priorities became simpler.”
Weems’ last dance may come today or three months from now, but he’s not afraid of that. “I’m 100% afraid,” he says, “of quitting life.”