September 19, 2012

Mortality


I am a cancer survivor. It was prostate cancer, and after a great deal of research, I decided on a seed implant and five weeks of radiation. 

I was fortunate. I caught the disease early, and the approach I took was the correct one for me. Today, I consider myself cancer free, and my tests agree.

I have just read Mortality by Christopher Hitchens. His story is different. Hitchens, a brilliant writer and speaker on politics and culture, battled esophageal cancer for eighteen months. In his book, originally published as a series in Vanity Fair, Hitchens poignantly describes the transforming experience that slowly changed his relationship with the world around him.

I don't remember questions from friends and relatives about my cancer, but unlike Hitchens, I never considered the possibility that I was dying. He wasn't so confident,  so a response to questions like, "How are you today?" took on a different kind of challenge.

The questions are well meaning, and are meant to show concern, and that's quite appropriate. The answers, however, are a lot more difficult for the responder, especially, one who has had a bad day. 

As Hitchens writes, "Nobody wants to be told about the countless minor horrors and humiliations that become facts of 'life' when your body turns from being your friend to being a foe." He continues that thought at great length, but it's much too descriptive to repeat here.

Though speaking with those who have cancer may sometimes be awkward, and we may be fearful of saying too much or to little, we are all capable of intercessory prayer. Praying to God in behalf of someone who is ill is one of the oldest forms of therapy and is widely accepted and practiced by Christians of all denominations. 

The Mortality book jacket suggests, it is “the exemplary story of one man's refusal to cower in the face of the unknown, as well as a searching look at the human predicament." For those who live in Penn Yan, it is on the New Book shelf in our local library, and I highly recommend it. Almost everyone’s life has been touched by cancer.