I’ve made an effort to
record my cancer reflections on my CaringBridge site and not here. Since this
post acknowledges a kind of anniversary, I am making an exception to that
practice.  Here’s what I posted there
this morning.


On December 26, 2013, I was in Barnes and Noble,
browsing through clearance items, when I got a call from my internist whom I
had recently seen for my annual physical.  He said that my blood-work
included a result which made him think it was wise for me to see a
hematologist-oncologist. Less than a month later, after seeing the oncologist a
couple of times and having a battery of tests, the oncologist called me just as
a Finance Committee meeting was ending. I stepped into a room near the meeting
room, and looked out over the darkened surface of Oak Street while my doctor
gave me test results and told me he needed to see me soon. The call lasted less
than five minutes.  In that brief span of time, I moved, in Susan Sontag’s
words, from the “kingdom of the well” to the “kingdom of the
sick.”  My passport to the kingdom of the sick was stamped
“cancer: multiple myeloma.”

For almost a year, I have lived with this diagnosis and subsequent treatment.
Early in the treatment process, I nicknamed this cancer “Frank,” and
began to relate to it/him in complex ways. The relationship was and is complex
because he/it is not alien to me, but is part of me–a part that, to be sure,
has gone wrong, but a part of me nonetheless.  It was hard from me to
“hate” or “fight” Frank without feeling that I was
“hating” and “fighting” my own body–hating and fighting

I learned that one of the insidious things about myeloma blood cells is that
they cannot die, as healthy blood cells do, to make room for new cells. So, I
began to relate to Frank as someone/something who needed the freedom to die. I
know it sounds like a word-game, but it helped me immensely to think of my
journey with Frank as a journey for liberation rather than for
conquest–liberation for the cancer cells so that they were not cursed to be
“the undead” and liberation of my body from those zombie-cells so
that I could experience new life.

I also related to Frank as a demanding but effective teacher, from whom I have
learned a great deal about suffering, fear, and grief; those challenging
lessons have opened me to deeper experiences of compassion, love, and
gratitude. Frank has pushed me to clarify what I trust about God. It’s clearer
to me now than it has ever been that God’s love is stronger than anything which
threatens us. Experience in some hard and harsh circumstances has convinced me
that God’s tender and sustaining love is steadily with us.  We are not

The journey with Frank continues. Daily and monthly chemotherapy drugs, with
their side-effects, keep him/it in front of me. I have to, and I get to, deal
with him every day.  Right now, he has me enrolled in a course in
vulnerability, a field of study I’ve dabbled in before but in which he has
immersed me. It’s important and challenging work, which I fear and hope won’t
ever let me be the same again. 

On Christmas Day, Dale Neal’s account of my experience with cancer and faith
ran in the Asheville Citizen-Times. Since
then, there have been new readers of and commenters on this site. I am grateful
for the generous expressions of support and offers of help. Across this year, I
have been surrounded by the love and prayers of a vast community of
encouragement which includes people whom I have never met. I am deeply thankful
for all of you.

And, while I can’t say that I am grateful for Frank, I can say that I am
grateful for what I have learned and am learning in his company.