I use the plural pronoun deliberately, as no cancer patient (or “witness to cancer,” as I prefer to be known) is an island. We are in this together. My melanoma has altered forever the lives of my wife, Ellen, daughter Allison and son-and-in-law Jonathan, and son Nicholas (and girlfriend Sara). All have been with me and for me through the ordeal of brain tumor surgery and subsequent waves of therapy. In even my darkest moments I’ve never felt alone.
I’ve been willing to share this adventure knowing that it’s through suffering—both our own and that of others we love—that we come to know more about God. It’s possible to assert that no one can really say they know God at all until they do suffer. While no sane person would wish for a diagnosis of cancer, seeing how my friends and family have risen to the occasion makes me an optimist. I know something today about the source of all strength that I didn’t before Aug. 5. I’ve been to the edge, looked over, and know that there is nothing to fear.
|Tucking in at the Cowboy |
Dinner Tree restaurant
in Summer Lake last June.
Allie and Jon flew home just before Christmas and are now living in our downstairs apartment until they return to academe next summer. It was hard on us all to have them so far away during my medical emergency, but I was comforted by their prayers and we managed to keep up communications via Skype. Sharing the same roof will present new challenges as we discover anew what it means to live in community.
|Nick presents at Jacques Ellul|
conference at Wheaton College
We got home on July 13, Ellen and I coordinated a work party of squirrelly high school students at Acorn the week of July 22…and then all hell broke loose for me medically. You can read about what happened if you scroll backwards in this blog. I want to acknowledge that neither Ellen nor I can imagine getting through those early days without the encouragement and stalwart support that Nick and Sara provided. They were magnificent.
Nick is now in Seattle, tutoring English with elementary students in one of the most ethnically diverse schools in the country, extending hospitality to the North Beacon Hill neighborhood where he and his two roommates live, and hanging out with Sara. He loves the urban vibe of Seattle.
|Ellen directs DACA candidate at|
workshop she organized last summer.
My own story continues to be written, and for that I’m grateful. I remain on my quest to explore why I’ve been allowed to remain in this world and what it means to be here as a man whose toes have curled over the edge of the abyss.
As you may have noticed, this blog has progressively become a record of my spiritual journey, despite the occasional diversions into technology and the economics of healthcare. I decided long ago that there are better ways of being ill than the modernist rendering of a journey that is primarily a series of interactions with the healthcare system. In most respects, that is the least interesting thing about what’s happened to me since August. At its core, my life is now about its transformation. It is something different than it was only months ago. There is no denying that I remain marked by cancer, but it is not the curse that some might think it to be. I now have different experiences than most people, and I intend to continue to tell about them.
What we’ve lived through as a family this year has wrought a level of commitment and trust that I never expected to know—not just from Ellen but also from our adult children. This bond has been strengthened by my recent medical therapy but was created through a series of traumas that each one of us has weathered, in turn, since Nick was a baby. Our family ties have been forged by fire. It has made us inseparable.