A Matter of Life and Death

I am a two-year cancer survivor. I am grateful every day for the second chance at life I’ve been given. I’ve been too close to the alternative not to be grateful.

I have a friend who might not be so lucky. He is a family friend of several decades. Our sons were in the same class in school. His daughter is a good friend of my daughter. Our families have been very close at times.

But he is now in big trouble. Diagnosed more than a year ago with a rare form of advanced lung cancer, Sloan Kettering doctors put him in a clinical trial. My husband, who ran into him every week at the grocery store said he was doing well.

Then suddenly that changed. The doctors thought the reason for his blurry vision was cataracts. They were removed but his vision became more blurry. Then he stopped being able to chew his food and began to need a liquid diet to sustain him. A spinal tap was done and cancer was found in his spinal fluid. A course of radiation was prescribed next. Nothing changed.

Now he is barely able to speak comprehensibly. Upset by this twist of fate, my family and I visited his family yesterday. His wife told me he hasn’t wanted any visitors because he feels so embarrassed about his condition. But he agreed to see us.

We spent a low key, pleasant two hours with him and his family. He began to perk up as the time passed, and spoke quite a bit more than I had expected him to. He clearly enjoyed being part of the conversation which was mostly about funny shared memories of events that transpired when our kids were younger.

Toward the end of the visit he brought up the subject of his illness and told us what events were in store for him this coming week: an MRI of his brain, a visit with the oncologist to discuss the chemo he will soon be undergoing and a couple of other doctor visits. He will start chemo on Thursday. He has not given up hope and is anxious to start the course of chemo therapy.

It was a difficult thing to do: to face someone you care about deeply, who you suspect might not live much longer. I think our visit meant a lot to him; he thanked my son for coming out from Brooklyn to see him. We told him we would be rooting for him every day; he said he would let us know how things progress.

Going to visit him to cheer him up and cheer him on was not easy but it was the right thing to do. He is in a fight for his life and he needs all the love and support he can get.

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