Tuesday, March 27, 2007
On Sunday we went to the memorial service for our attorney who died on St. Patrick's Day of cancer. She was a good and thoughtful counselor who worked with us on a couple of very contentious issues and was able to bring them to resolution. She left an adoring husband and two young girls. But last week also saw the news that Elizabeth Edwards' cancer had recurred. And now we understand that Tony Snow, the White House spokesman, has seen cancer recur. This morning I ran into a blog by a guy named George M. Roper - who writes a blog called GM'sCorner - with one masthead that says Cancer Sucks (reproduced here). Roper had cancer and Tony Snow wrote him an advice piece - an excerpt is presented below. Roper is my age and is a counselor at University of Texas-Pan American. He writes with style. Two of the values he holds high are ones that are inviolate - integrity and honesty. I like this guy already!
Snow was a great newscaster on Fox. He chose to move into the Bush Administration and has been a first rate spokesman. As I think I have mentioned I worked in a position where I saw, at least at a short distance, the work of the White House press office during the Nixon Administration. It is a high intensity job that takes a mix of skill and energy but it also takes a certain amount of straight forwardness. A lot of the White House spokesmen are too cute by a half. Snow is not. He answers questions not with Zen Koans but with clarity. Tony Snow is among the best I have seen in many years. My prayers are with him and I hope everyone will join in those efforts. His advice to Roper was wonderful. Roper reprinted it today and hoped that Snow will take his own advice. What I have seen of Snow from afar suggests that he will.
Snow's advice -
"First, enlist as much love and support from friends as you can, and don't be shy. One of the great distinguishing characteristic of Americans is that they always want a chance to do something good. Many are doing good things for you right now, many completely unknown to you. Some people are afraid of admitting to cancer because they worry that others will treat them like freaks. A very few people will; most will rally in wondrous and suprising ways. Give them a chance to help. They'll come through for you.
Second, talk to other cancer patients. They have street cred others don't. For instance, you're probably now noticing twinges and random pains in far-flung parts of your body. This sort of stuff has been going on your entire life, and you have paid no heed. Now, however, the mere threat of cancer has you wondering whether the killer cells have fiendishly relocated to some unusual part of your body -- from your toes to your earlobes, along with every viscera and soft tissue in between. I remember thinking at one point that pressure in my forehead must have been a sure indicator of brain cancer. Instead, I just had sinus congestion. This sort of panic is normal: I don't know a single cancer patient who hasn't experienced it in one way, shape or form. I finally called my internist and informed him that I was going nuts and needed some sort of stuff to calm me down. He prescribed Xanax. I took exactly one -- conversations with doctors and other cancer patients managed to calm my nerves even better than drugs.
Third, learn as much as you can -- ignorance is your enemy -- but don't get too hooked on internet sites. Many of them are idiotic. Better to consult with your MD Anderson trained doc, who can steer you to stuff that might be helpful. Look especially for success stories. You'd be amazed at how far medicine has come in the last 15 years, and how effective the meds are.
Fourth, keep the fighting attitude. A friend of mine -- a survivor of simultaneous lung, breast and armpit lymph cancers -- described sitting in meetings with fellow breast cancer patients. Some just looked defeated, even though each one of them had far less severe cases than she had. Not one of the defeated-looking patients made it. You'll find that it's surprisingly easy to remain combative once you've begun to shuck aside some of the fear. Just think about the people you love and the things you want to do with them in the years ahead. That should be all the inspiration you need. Furthermore, you'll find that your attitude will change (likely for the better) the moment you get into treatment. It's like going from pre-game jitters to the game. Once the game is on, you don't have any choice. You have to play. So play to win.
Fifth: Realize that fear is a complete waste of time, even though it will creep up on you from time to time. Your full-time job now is to get well. Blogs are nice, but living is more fundamental. The most important part of the aforementioned fighting attitude is to set fear aside and get determined about getting well.
Sixth, relish and embrace your faith. I kept a file of what I called "healing verses," many of which had been forwarded through well-wishers. You can find them sprinkled everywhere in the Bible; Psalms and Proverbs are especially rich sources. Prayer is an amazing thing, and the healing power of prayer -- something I always suspected before getting cancer -- is palpable and real. You've seen the responses already on your site: These people are pulling for you, as are hundreds or even thousands who aren't writing. There's no greater honor than having somebody you don't know asking God to help you. Somehow, the word trickles back, and it will make you stronger."