A Rich Existence

“On average, someone with your condition has about two years to live.” That’s what my new oncologist told me when I met with him for our second session this week. That’s not all he had to say. He began with the words, “Given all the extraordinary complications you’ve endured with this cancer . . . ,” and I thought sure he was going to conclude by saying “your body by now has become so compromised that there’s not much hope left.” But no, he finished his sentence this way: “it’s amazing that you’re still vigorous, strong and vital. That says a lot about your capacity to stand up to this illness and to thrive.” He assured me that he  planned to treat the disease aggressively. He spoke of adding new drugs to my present chemotherapy regime, told me he’d start genetic testing, said he would get me into an immunotherapy trial and promised that he would add other modalities as the need might arise.

It was a lot to take in. I didn’t have time to feel sad that my prospects might be so limited; that would come later, I thought. Instead, I focused on what I’ll be facing right away: chemotherapy infusions coming in two week intervals — a sine-wave of six days feeling sick followed by eight days feeling better — all for the foreseeable future.

He reminded me that there was some very good news to celebrate. It seems I’ve “stabilized.” The most recent imaging revealed that the cancer has not spread beyond the colon and the liver. Things could be much worse. The liver surgeon whom I’d seen earlier in the day, reinforced our expectations that surgery was not an option for me because of too many lesions on both organ lobes plus the fact that one nefarious nodule has dangerously wrapped itself around a cluster of blood vessels and bile ducts.

So, where does all this leave me? A little bewildered that things should be so dire, and yet more than a little encouraged that there is still much to fight and live and hope for. I certainly understand the reality of my situation: this is a serious condition that I’m battling, and, barring some uncommon turnaround, I know this cancer will ultimately cause my death. 

But when? Not soon, if I have anything to do with it — and I do! I’m putting myself on the five- to ten-year plan and am committed to doing everything I can to make that happen. Why? Because I love life, this life, too much to do otherwise just now. Mine is a rich existence, full of creativity, beauty and love. I’m grateful for all I’ve had up ‘til now, and for however much more I’ll have of life in the months and years ahead. Yes, I’ll be grateful for death as well, when it comes: I know that, too, is ultimately all about rich living. 

But just now it seems right to stand and fight this internal assault on my bodily integrity and personal well-being. That’s what I’ll do, and, along the way, I’ll cherish the days and months and years in which I’m given to do it.

6 Thoughts on “A Rich Existence

  1. Julie P. Nicholson on December 10, 2018 at 9:23 am said:

    What a role model you are, Edward! You carry the cancer banner high aloft for all of us when you write the way you do! What strength, What courage! What determination, It starts with the picture by your chemotherapy set-up — an eloquent portrait of your foe — but also a tribute to the knowledge of your doctors! /Above all, I see your cure in your own words, and I quote: I love life, this life, too much to do otherwise just now. Mine is a rich existence, full of creativity, beauty and love. I’m grateful for all I’ve had up ‘til now, and for however much more I’ll have of life in the months and years ahead.” You truly inspire me Edward. , Thank you!

  2. Charles Edward Mann on December 10, 2018 at 10:14 am said:

    I’ve enjoyed your writing since I was first introduced to it by my wife’s cousin, and hope I can display at least half the resolve you do when my time comes.

  3. Philip M. Howe on December 10, 2018 at 12:52 pm said:

    “I love life, this life..” That is a simple and profound Christmas gift and message. Thank you, Ed, and Merry Christmas.

  4. Dear Ed,

    Your message drives home the point for me that for all of us, “Our days are numbered.”
    In a sense, we are all living on “borrowed time.” As such, you inspire me (and many others)
    with your “Good News” about embracing the Present, Relishing the Past, and Looking Forward
    to the Future (no matter how time limited it may be).

    You are growing in Wisdom (appropriate for your life stage). And, I, for one, appreciate your
    sharing your Wisdom with me.

    As you know, my very best wishes are with you and your Loving Spouse.


    Jack McGovern, Class of 1967, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA

  5. Gertrud Champe on December 10, 2018 at 7:50 pm said:

    Dear Edward,
    Your merry-go-round of infusion bags tells volumes about the sense of humor that loves life. Can’t verbalize it yet, but I’m thinking about it as I join my prayers to yours. Please keep writing and roaring! With affection, Gertrud

  6. Anne Stribling on December 11, 2018 at 8:05 am said:

    Dear Ed,

    John and I await your posts with anticipation and fear after we have prayed for you each day during our blessing. This one was particularly uplifting and hopeful. May you spend this season of Advent in peace and with hope. Love to you and Elizabeth.

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