Still Alive Author: TriSecDate:06/16/2018 09:41:00
This past week, a childhood friend of mine lost her husband to the "Big C". She was the youngest of our 'posse' in those days - the baby sister of my then best friend, and the youngest one in the neighborhood.
She's perhaps the most serendipitous of those Facebook connections. I saw her name pop up in a feed belonging to one of my Scouter friends in another city. I wasn't sure it was her, but then I saw her brother on the mutual friend list. Cornering my scouter friend, I discovered that they were next door neighbors. Of all things.
But about a year ago now, my old friend reported her husband's diagnosis. Offering up the usual platitudes, I followed online as his condition deteriorated, and just this past weekend he took a dramatic downturn and finally succumbed on the evening of June 13.
They were all younger than me, and as the end of June is the 6th anniversary of my own diagnosis, I've been thinking hard about this of late. Why am I still here?
Every step of my journey has mystified me. Never mind the appendicitis that led to the discovery - that's miracle enough on it's own. A nurse friend of mine told me at the time that I was the only such case she had ever heard of. I had surgery, but it was done by the hospital's surgical oncology department head, and he essentially said "what's this?" and kept going. During my treatment, I went through genetic testing, and there was no discovery. I had none of the genetic indicators that would show an increased cancer risk.
Even my chemotherapy - my doctor told me heading in that it's a bell curve of responses. At one extreme, people will have one treatment and be flat on their backs for the duration. Most folks fall in the middle with varying levels of side effects, but I fell on the other extreme - those rare folks that say "what chemotherapy?" and keep on going.
Over the years, I've had many friends and family that have gone through this. After I was diagnosed in 2012, for a time it almost felt like everyone I knew was suddenly getting cancer. It certainly gave me pause then, and it still does now.
But there is something larger that must be at play. We live in a modern society, and it was 100% modern medicine that saved my life. None of those potions or elixirs pushed by charlatans as magic cures would have saved me.
Yet my circumstances seem mysterious. Why am I still here, while many of my friends and family are not? How was it that I could essentially shake it off with barely a ripple in the way I live my life? It's very strange for me to consider, as a minimally-spiritual person. Perhaps there are larger factors at work. I didn't die in 2012. Perhaps I have more work to do here.