|Gandalf confronts the|
Balrog on the Bridge
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.