Saturday, November 17, 2012

You shall not pass!

There’s a dramatic scene in “The Lord of the Rings” where the wizard Gandalf sends his company of friends scurrying across the Bridge of Khazad-dum as they flee the monster Balrog while deep in the mines of Moria. Halfway across, Gandalf stops, spins around to cast a spell on the fiery Balrog and then thunders, “You...shall not...pass!”

Gandalf confronts the
Balrog on the Bridge
of Khazad-dum
With that, the bridge beneath the monster starts to disintegrate and it tumbles into the abyss. Gandalf appears to have won his epic showdown. Or has he? As Balrog disappears from view, it snaps its fiery whip one last time, wrapping its tip around Gandalf's ankle. The wizard is dragged to the crumbling edge of the bridge, lingers there a moment as he hangs by his fingertips, and then plunges into subterranean darkness (see YouTube video).

It’s a stunning sequence, and a convenient parable as I complete another episode in my own saga of cancer care.

The Balrog in my case is melanoma, and let’s say Gandalf is the archetypal oncologist. There are all types of devilry in the world of cancer, including much that defies easy treatment. Some cancers demand the exceptional power of medical wizards to treat, but even their best is not always enough. “Fly, you fools” Gandalf hisses to Frodo and his friends as they watch in horror before he falls from the bridge. While the immediate danger has passed, goblins still lurk within Moria. The fellowship of the ring must never let down its guard.

The oncologists on my medical team may be wise, but they're not omnipotent. My fate at this point is as uncertain as Frodo's. I’ve run across the bridges that are whole-brain radiation and immunotherapy, and am back on solid ground. Unknown peril lies ahead, cast within the context of a grand adventure. It remains doubtful that there’s a medical solution to my condition. But if there is no ring of power for advanced melanoma patients, there is at least a fellowship of friends and family with whom we share our journeys.

With my two-month course of treatment now complete, I can expect gradual relief from its various side-effects. In another month I’m scheduled for both head and body scans. Then we’ll see where I stand and whether I must flee from danger once again. If you know “The Lord of the Rings,” you’ll recall that Gandalf the Gray eventually returns from death as Gandalf the White and leads the forces of good to victory. That’s a story line worth cheering for.


Cam said...

Oh boy, Peter, only you could write this. Beautiful analysis, my friend, beautiful analogy. Hope to see you soon and proud to be among your fan club/cheering section.
Love ya, brother.
Cam and Stephen

Nancy said...

Peter the Magnificent! The story continues, a real page turner written by the pen-wielding master of storytelling, Peter the Bold.

In olden days, the pen was mightier than the sword. How does that translate into today's electronic writing world? They keyboard is mightier than the sword? Good alliteration, at least. Keep writing - your fans are all looking forward to many sequels in your epic tale. Blessings to you and your mighty circle of family and friends on this Thanksgiving for which there is much to be thankful.