從珍惜自己身體開始——西西專訪

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1993 / 2月

文‧滕淑芬採訪整理


《哀悼乳房》是一本轉化病中經驗為文字的一本書。作者西西從一個病人的心情出發,穿插豐富的醫療知識,理智而冷靜地描繪出「病」與「醫」之間不可避免的隔閡。

不少醫界人士肯定作者正確的自療觀念,稱許像她這樣好的病人;但這絕不只是一本病人寫給病人看的工具書,而是作者寫作歷程的一個重要階段。這次她用另一種方式來談她自己、她的病、她對生命真切的感受。


生命歷經另一個階段

問:這樣一本有關剖析自己罹患乳癌、醫療自救的書,和您以前的小說、散文風格迥然不同,這本書對您本身具有什麼樣的意義?您希望傳達給讀者什麼樣的訊息?

答:這本書在我個人的寫作歷程上,是一個重要階段,它有不同的內容、不同的寫法。透過這書可以和更多不同的人溝通,包括醫生和病人。在寫作過程裡可以不斷反省自己過去的生命,這比完成一項工作有更大的參與、投入,因為是真切的感覺。我希望告訴讀者的就是,愛惜生命。我們修養思想、心靈的同時,不要忽視了心靈賴以寄居的皮囊,而肉體和心靈是不能分割的。

從另一面看,把疾病揭露,也是病人自我治療的一種方法。中國人從來就是一個諱疾忌醫的民族,總把疾病,尤其是這種病,隱瞞起來,當成一種禁忌。到頭來,有病的不單是肉體,還有靈魂。精神病醫師的治病方法是把病者無意識的心結轉化為意識,然後面對它、化解它。我把疾病公開描繪,不敢說是打破禁忌,卻不失為個人自救的努力。所謂「哀悼」,其實含有往者已矣,來者可追,而期望重生的意思。

問:您在書中提到一個非常重要的觀念,古代希臘以愛智聞名,可是他們除了愛智也愛惜自己身體,奧林匹克運動就一直延續到現在。而中國儒家倡禮樂射御書術六藝,既要騎馬射箭,又要學駕馬車,演變到現在卻成為一個重文輕武的社會,為什麼會這樣?中國文學埵乎也少有談自己身體的作品。

同樣重視修養「身」「心」

答:過去的道德規範教誨我們:肉體是不道德的、羞恥的,重視肉身就等於精神墮落,結果矯枉過正,大多數人連自己的肉體也羞於面對;看其他人的肉體呢,就帶上了有色眼鏡。

受了十多年學校的教育,我們都成了重視腦袋的人了。離開學校,常常追尋的是精神食糧,看書、看電影、買書籍、買唱片,全是餵飼腦子。老師從來不教我們買甚麼東西吃。

從醫院出來,我好像從病床撿到了自己的身體帶回家,這軀體如今該由我來打理了。而以前,我的確是從來不知道自己是有軀體的。雖然看了一些書,書本著重的是叫我們如何關心自己的靈魂,結果,軀體全被擱置在一邊,而靈魂顯然並無寸進,軀體則在暗地堭捙a了。

軀體是很奇怪的,它不發生問題,不給你那麼地痛一下,不給你若干刺激,你根本不注意它。

中國文學堣皉傢似作品,一來諸多禁忌,中國自古的文學正統就講溫柔敦厚,「思無邪」;二來傳統認定肉身乃形而下的東西,受之父母,不容損毀。

寫給所有人看

問:在乳癌這個主題下,您穿插著敘事文、說明文、對話、問答、閱讀筆記、新詩,有些篇張結尾還有指示,建議讀者跳到另一頁去讀,體例非常特殊。在序中您說到:「如果你是男子漢,專注你自己,那就翻看《鬚眉》一段已足。」您會顧慮男性讀者對這樣一個女性主題的接受程度嗎?為什麼?

答:我但願讀者是所有人,其中女性不妨多些。我不認為這書是專為女子而寫的,也為與女子有親緣、友情關係的男子而寫。我們總生活在人際關係的網路裡,而女子,至少佔了一半,而且可能是較好的一半!何況,香港的報章最近報導,男性患乳癌有增多之勢,竟有千多人之眾。

問:正如您所說,乳癌並不是只會發生在女性身上。在書中,您寫出了一般人重精神輕皮囊,對自己身體不了解的情形。有一部美製電影「再生之旅」(The Doctor)也描述一位醫師罹患喉癌,成為病人之後,才能體悟出病人的感受。這些都指出沒有親身經歷、難以理解他人感受的程度,甚至有時會在言語中,不經意地傷害到他人。以您親身經歷而言,您認為有辦法縮短這種在認知上的差距嗎?

自尊尊人

答:我不可能成為另一個人,另一個人不可能成為我,我們都是時空裡有限的存在,所以認知的差距似乎難以完全破除。不過,我想倘能「互以彼此為重」,自尊之外,同時尊人,聆聽不同的意見、想法增廣知識的層面,以誠意待人,那麼也許能夠縮短人與人之間的差距。

我比較幸運,生病時朋友都能諒解我,比方喜歡抽菸的就不在我面前抽;吃東西時,總照顧我的需要等等。我們也許會在言談堣ㄕ裗捷阨`別人,但如果是朋友,他看你平日的為人,應能諒解。

這些日子堙A我發現朋友遠比我記得的多,待我更好,對我的關懷和各方面的支援,令我感動。的確是因為朋友,使我捨不得離開這個世界。我原是十分窩囊的人,並不比任何人勇敢;謝謝朋友,讓我重拾信心。

問:這本書在台灣出版界受到極高評價,甚至有醫界士人看了書中某些篇章,以為作者是一位有心的醫生。您在寫作時想必收集了不少相關資料?當時您是以什麼樣的心情閱讀這些資料?

「我會好好活下去」

答:醫療上的資料,自己收集了一些,朋友也幫助我找到一些。我是一方面作為病人來閱讀這些資料,發覺自己過去太不小心了;另一方面,作為一個寫作的人,也想到應該把這些所知所感寫出來。

人對人的問題,人對自己的問題,總是一種踢球的態度。癌病來了,社會的各個部門在推搪,器官與器官之間在推搪,就是沒有一個會反問自己,願意承擔。實在承擔了又要追問有什麼回報。

對於這個世界,我們患了癌症的人,該作些甚麼?我想,首先該做的還是好好地活著。從一九八九年十月起,我就成為醫院的一個檔案,上面有我的病歷和療治的過程。這檔案可以留作研究的資料:患乳腺癌的病人能活多久,放射治療的效果如何,什麼時候再發病,或者根本不再發病、沒有轉移、身體健康、藥物生效等等。

這樣的檔案,連同其他病者的,可以算出香港、中國、亞洲地區的乳癌發病率、療效、生存率,供世界研究。

患癌症的人該努力好好地活著,凡遇禁忌,加以破除;凡遇病患,加以治療。病人和醫生合作,可以給醫學界鼓舞,也給其他患癌的人帶來希望。

〔圖片說明〕

P.93

(何福仁提供)

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近期文章

EN

Start with Treasuring Your Own Body: An Interview with Hsi Hsi

interview by Teng Sue-feng /tr. by Jonathan Barnard

Mourning My Breast is a book that turns experience with illness into words. The writer Hsi Hsi describes the feelings of a sick person and inserts lots of information about medical treatment, calmly and sensibly describing the inexorable distance between those who are ill and those who treat them.

Many medical professionals affirm the writer's ideas about self healing and praise her as an excellent patient. But ultimately this is more than a book written as a tool for other patients. It is also the writer's record of an important stage of her life. In these sections, she uses other methods to speak of herself, her illness and her piercing insights on life.


Q: A book like this, which analyzes your own experiences with breast cancer, medical treatment and self-healing, is quite different from your earlier literary essays and works of fiction. What kind of meaning does this book have for you? And what kind of message do you wish to give the readers?

Entering a new phase of life

A: This book represents an important phase in my history as a writer. It's a departure both in content and writing style. Through the book, I am able to communicate with many different kinds of people, including doctors and patients. In the course of writing the book, I couldn't help but reflect on my life. I put more into it than just another writing project because it's about my true feelings. In it I'm trying to tell my readers to treasure life. In cultivating the intellect and the soul, we shouldn't overlook that the soul relies on the body as a place of dwelling and that the flesh and blood cannot be cut away from the soul.

Also, unmasking a disease is another weapon of self-healing that the ill have at their disposal. Chinese people have always preferred to conceal their ailments, always hiding away illness--especially this kind of illness. But in the end, it's not only the flesh but also the spirit that becomes ill. The method used by psychiatrists is to turn a patient's conscious attention to what were subconscious mental disorders, making the patient face and solve his problems. In publicly describing illness, I won't dare say that I am breaking a taboo, but it is indeed an effort to save myself. So called "mourning" also suggests a sense of what's gone is gone, of turning toward the future and of expecting rebirth.

Q: In the book, you mention an extremely important concept: The ancient Greeks loved intellectual civilization, but besides loving the mind, they also loved the body. The Olympics have continued down to the present. And the Chinese Confucian scholars originally emphasized the six arts of rites, music, archery, driving a chariot, learning and mathematics, stressing the importance of shooting arrows, riding a horse and driving a chariot. But this has been transformed where today we emphasize the Confucian literary tradition over its martial tradition. Why? In Chinese literature there are also few works that discuss one's own body.

Stressing the spirit and flesh

A: The moral codes of the past instruct us that the flesh is immoral and shameful, and that emphasizing the body is equal to degrading the spirit. As a result, as people overcompensated, they became ashamed to face their own bodies. And they began having dirty thoughts when looking at other people's bodies.

Receiving ten plus years of education, we have all been taught to stress the importance of the mind. Upon leaving school, we often seek out spiritual sustenance, reading books, watching movies, buying books and buying records: These are all food for the brain. But our teachers never taught us what we ought to buy to eat.

Upon getting out of the hospital, it was as if I had found my body in a hospital bed, brought it home and turned to care for it. Before I wasn't really conscious of my own body. Although I had read books, those books had emphasized how to take care of one's soul, and the result was that my body had been cast to one side. The spirit didn't make any clear progress, and the body rotted away in the dark.

The body is very strange. If there are no problems with it, if it goes for a period without hurting, without giving you any sharp pains, you won't pay it any mind.

There are very few books about the body in Chinese literature because it has long been taboo. From the classics on, Chinese literature has largely been concerned with being gentle and sincere and keeping a pure mind. Secondly, tradition affirms that one's body is a physical thing given by one's parents that cannot be damaged.

Writing for everyone

Q: For this topic of breast cancer, you used such forms of writing as descriptive essay, expository essay, conversation, question and answer, a reader's journal and modern poetry. At the end of some sections, you suggest that readers skip to another page. The book's structure is very unusual. In the preface you say, "If you are a man, concentrating on yourself, you need only to read a few pages of the section 'Man.'" Do you worry about what level of acceptance men will have to a women's topic like this? Why?

A: I'd like the readers to be of both sexes, but am willing for there to be relatively more women. I don't believe that this book was written especially for women--I have written also for men who are the friends or relatives of women. In the whole web of relationships of human life, women make up at least half, possibly the better half. Not to mention that a report in the Hong Kong press said that the incidence of breast cancer among men has risen dramatically to where there are now more than 1000 cases among men.

Q: Just like you say that breast cancer doesn't happen only among women, you write that most people stress the spirit and slight the flesh, lacking an understanding of their own bodies. There's an American movie The Doctor, in which a doctor only comes to understand the feelings of an ill person when he gets throat cancer himself. If you don't have any personal experience, it's difficult to understand the depths of others' feelings and thus easy to unintentionally hurt others' feelings. Speaking from your own personal experience, do you believe that there is a way to shrink this gap of understanding.

Respect yourself and respect others

A: There's no way I can become someone else, and another person can't become me. We all exist within the limits of time and space, and so this gap of understanding cannot be completely eliminated. Nevertheless, I still think we can have "mutual respect." Besides respecting oneself, one also must respect others. Listening to others' opinions and ways of thinking can broaden one's own knowledge. By treating people sincerely, one can perhaps shrink the distance between people.

I am quite lucky. When I was sick, my friends would understand and forgive me. For example, those who smoke wouldn't smoke in front of me. When it came to eating food, they would take care of my needs. We can also hurt others unintentionally in conversation, but if people are friends, having seen what one is normally, they ought to be able to forgive and understand.

These days, I have discovered that I have more friends than I ever thought I had. They are nicer to me than ever, caring for me and supporting me in every way--it's really very moving. Indeed, it's because of friends that I was reluctant to leave this world. I was really quite a coward, not a bit braver than anyone else. I thank my friends for giving me confidence.

Q: This book has been very well reviewed in Taiwan, to the point where some people in the medical world have read some chapters and thought they were written by a doctor with a heart. When you were writing it, did you collect a lot of information? What kind of attitude did you take toward reading these research materials?

"I will live on"

A: I collected some of these materials and my friends collected some of these for me. In one sense, I was reading these materials as a patient, discovering that I had been too careless in the past. In another sense, I was reading them as a writer, thinking that I should write down all I know and feel.

In dealing with others and in dealing with oneself, there is always an attitude of kicking around a ball. When the cancer comes, each section of society passes the buck, and the organs inside your body pass the buck. None of them will turn around and take responsibility on themselves. In taking responsibility, what would be the reward?

In this world, what should those with cancer do? I think first and foremost, you've got to keep on living. Since October of 1989, I've become a file in a hospital. Inside are the history of my illness and the process of my treatment. This file can be used as a research material to answer any number of questions: How long can those with breast cancer live? How effective is radiation? When will the cancer reoccur? Or will there be no reoccurrence in the same place or elsewhere, with the drugs being effective and the body staying healthy?

With this file and the files of other patients, you could calculate the incidence of breast cancer in Hongkong, China and all of Asia, as well as the effectiveness of treatment and survival rates, providing these for worldwide research.

Those with cancer ought to do their best to keep on living. Effort should be spent smashing all the taboos and curing all the afflicted. If patients and doctors cooperate, it can give other cancer patients hope.

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