Lung Cancer and Life

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I   N    A  P  R  I  L   I was diagnosed with lung cancer when the doctors discovered a 4 cm adenocarcinoma on my left lung.  The good news is that I caught it early and that it originated and is confined to the lung.

Monday, I completed the second of four courses of chemotherapy designed to shrink the tumor and keep it in its place.  After the chemo is completed I will go into surgery.  Because the tumor is located in the fissure that separates the upper and lower lobe of the lung it looks as if the entire lung will have to be removed.  

Many patients talk of fighting cancer, of battling and struggling against it, and these are valid approaches that reflect the individual temperaments of these patients.

My approach is different.  I embrace my cancer as an integral part of God’s creation, for all of creation is grounded in death and the truth we all face is that the leading cause of death is birth.

On this surface, this could easily be misconstrued as surrender. It is anything but. 

Life is one big non-linear paradox.  So my embrace, rather than being surrender, is a challenge to embrace my cancer and pass through it, and in passing through it to realize and accept that not only will it change me but it will always be with me.   It will forever be in my soul, but by embracing and passing through I increase the probability that it will strengthen my soul instead of curdling it.

It will remain is my body, as well, in remission, but the truth is that cancer will probably be my ticket out of this world, hopefully some years from now.  In one respect, we are all children playing in the sand, and with our plastic shovels and buckets we build sand castles, forts and other intricate structures.  And, yet, the time comes for all of us when we must pick up our toys, take our father’s hand and go home.  And after we have left the beach, the tide comes in and washes away all we have built.  However, by the time that happens we are safely home and sound asleep.

This is actually my second bout of cancer.  Ten years ago I was diagnosed with an indolent lymphoma.  Happily, for the last six years, it’s been behaving itself. On that occasion I wrote the following poem: 


Bury me, if you would, in a shroud

That my brothers and sisters

The worms and microbes may enfold me back into the earth,

That one day,

Years from now or generations from now,

A young girl may squat before a gaily-colored flower

And in leaning forward to inhale its scent

She will inhale my Spirit. 

One of the upsides of cancer is that it gives you time to compose your epitaph. After much thought and meditation I wish the following to be carved into my tombstone below my name and the dates of my birth and my death:


After all, it does piss you off a bit.

CASE WAGENVOORD is a frequent contributor to Cyrano and The Greanville Post.  We are all rooting for him.

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