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Battling Cancer--Stuntz

I’ve spent the month of March, so far, recuperating from surgery for colon cancer. You read a lot when you’re getting over surgery—and, if you’re like me, you watch a lot of “Law and Order” reruns (preferably, any episode that includes the late Jerry Orbach)—and one of the subjects I’ve been reading about is, no surprise, cancer.

Sometimes, the reading is a help. People who have been down this road know things about it that I don’t, and some of them are things I need to know. But the accounts of cancer treatment I’ve read have some problems. One in particular bothers me.

Here it is: Everywhere I turn these days, I read about how people battled or fought cancer, and won. The military metaphor sounds apt: this is a deadly enemy that wants to see me killed—but I’m supposed to kill it instead, and thereby win the day for my side. Only it doesn’t work like that. I’m no soldier fighting an enemy army. I’m more like the battlefield, with both sides—the doctors on the one hand, the disease on the other—lobbing artillery shells into my gut. The doctors are the real soldiers; they’re actively fighting the disease. And the disease is certainly active: cancer cells may not exercise conscious choice, but they behave like an intelligent force that plots and pursues destruction.

In the midst of all that activity, patients are pretty much passive. The disease makes its moves; the docs make theirs: my job is to sit there and take it, to be the territory over which they fight. So, every time I go to the hospital for another test or injection or appointment, I feel a little less human, a little more like an object rather than a subject. I wish it were otherwise: being a soldier is better than being a patient. But that isn’t the way the system works.

To put it another way, cancer treatment is like medical treatment more generally, only more so. Patients tell doctors how they feel, and the doctors do things to them, first to figure out what’s wrong and later to fix it. Watch “House,” and you’ll see what I mean: on that show as, often, in real life, the patient’s job is to lie in a hospital bed, throw up, and bleed. The doctors monopolize the action. That’s a pretty good deal for the doctors. For patients, not so much.

I don’t think this is anyone’s fault. Cancer treatment is what it is—the doctors do what they do because they’re trying to give people like me the best possible shot at survival. It’s not their fault that the best treatments consist of doctors doing things to patients, not patients doing things for themselves. Still, while that state of affairs may be unavoidable, I don’t have to like it.

Other patients can battle their diseases if they like. Me, I want to be more engaged in my battles. If I can’t do that here, if I have to sit back and let other forces make war on my body, maybe that means I need to find another fight. Preferably, one that gives me more of a job to do.


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Comments ( 5 )

Although you do not have control over the direct treatment of cancer, you still have freedom over your emotions and how you respond to the disease. In this way, you have an active job in the fight and can still be engaged. This, I would say, is the most important job - even more important than treatment administration.

Best of luck to you.

It's the waning moments of Easter 2008, so I'll leave you with this thought: You are engaged in a battle that you cannot possibly lose. Literally.

There are two possible outcomes.
(1) Your body rids itself of the cancer and you have more time on earth with your family, friends, your scholarship, arts and literature, good food, etc., etc.,
(2) The day you return home to heaven comes a lot sooner than anticipated.

With choices like that, how can a person lose!

Oh yeah, there is the whole ordeal of the terrible, excruciating, other-worldly pain that will be experienced getting to whichever of the two destinations you arrive at. But this is one case where the destination is a whole lot more important than the journey.

I hope this isn't perceived as being cruelly flippant. It wasn't meant to be. Happy Easter.

i'm to teach class in 20 minutes -- before my tenure committee, incidentally -- but i just learned of your illness and couldn't delay saying that -- having witnessed for a semester your energy and enthusiasm and wit (all of which i mimic, badly, as best i can) -- it's hard to envision you "passive" at any level.

Even if it's the doctors who truly end up winning your war, what's important to me (and many others) is that it be won, and fast. And if, per standard cancer myths, you end up getting great credit for that victory, might i suggest that it's some form of psychic and inadequate battle pay -- which, Jerry Orbach notwithstanding -- your perseverance in the struggle certainly merits.

Get well soon. And thanks for the blog.

I came to your site by way of the Brian Leiter Law School Report Web site. Your writing is beautiful and moving as are many of the comments. I do not pretend to know how to deal with or cure chronic pain. I have found that imagery helps me deal with painful headaches: the process being, having myself or another ask me to describe the pain by asking separate questions like: What is the size of the pain? What is the shape of the pain? What color is the pain? and after these questions are asked, to then ask if the pain is lessening, staying the same, or intensifying; to then repeat the same questions. This has worked for disappearing headaches, and perhaps it may assist you in some way. I will pray for you.

Within your notations about your cancer came this statement: "Other patients can battle their diseases if they like. Me, I want to be more engaged in my battles. If I can’t do that here, if I have to sit back and let other forces make war on my body, maybe that means I need to find another fight. Preferably, one that gives me more of a job to do."

I just got off the phone with someone else who is now 'Clear of Cancer' [his was prostate cancer and he did end up having his prostate removed]. He is absolutely clear of his cancer after doing some OTHER pertinent alternative things AFTER his surgery -- to which surgery, in retrospect, he wishes he never submitted!

Here is a note I wrote just this morning to another cancer battler -- I share it with you in hope that YOU too will see that God does periodically give us wisdom sometimes from the most unlikely sources or arenas:

Dear H.,

Since I came across your comment about your cancer 'eating you away' on the discussion board this am and just a few minutes ago I received a call from a friend who is now 'clean' from his cancer and since I was privileged to work with a Christian practitioner last week who works with numerous cancer and heart patients through alternative methods, I am led to share with you. Of course you can pursue this information or not but here it is. Tell me please, your thoughts.

Dr. Shinya is a medical doctor who practices both in Japan and in the U.S. He has over 3,000 cancer patients and ALL of them have conquered the cancer disease and 0% have had a relapse! That is NONE of them has ever relapsed with the cancer at all!! His book is worth the read: "The Enzyme Factor" by Hiromi Shinya, M.D. One of the things he definitively recommends is Kangen Water.

"Kangen Water" is water that has been processed through a filtering system and through electrolysis so that it has three main characteristics:
1. Alkalinity instead of acidity;
2. An ORP (Oxidation Reduction Potential) that is in the area of -400 to -800 instead of all the bottled waters, +200 to +800! ORP is a factor of how many electrons are available to fill in the electrons that are scavenged by the process of oxidation (rust inside the body);
3. 'Small Water' effect -- this is the fact that water is normally found [at least in most municipal and well settings] with micro-clusters of 10 to15 or more molecules and when it runs through a quality electrolysis process, the micro clusters are reduced in size to just a few molecules. This allows the hydration of the body to be highly improved -- allowing nutrients to get in much more efficiently and toxins and waste to be removed much more efficiently.
All of the above information is foundational to the fact that cancer thrives in an acidic environment and cancer CANNOT survive in an alkaline environment! We first were blessed by someone who shared processed water with us and through that saw numerous physiological changes for the better! Then in time we purchased our own Enagic water treatment system which provides the water for us. What an improvement.

I am glad to send you materials via email or the mail system so you can further learn and maybe the Lord would be pleased to improve your situation through some of this wisdom that He has allowed us to have. Please let me know your thoughts and wishes.

I lost my youngest sister to cancer. I lost my uncle to cancer..... Now, the door had been opened to help others in a definitive way. Maybe He is wiling to allow you and others to survive in this life longer to serve Him further. Who knows His mind fully? He is to be glorified in everything.

On another note ... My youngest sister, before she went to be with the Lord, gave me a copy of a book that has been wonderfully enlightening and a tremendous blessing to me (us). Have you read "Trusting GOD -- Even When Life Hurts" by Jerry Bridges? IF not, I would be glad to get you a copy ... if the Lord blesses you even half as much as He has blessed me through the read, you will be overjoyed!! Please let me know if you'd like a copy.

My deacon activities have me interacting with many different situations here in my home area and across the nation as God allows me to train in varying areas. Again, I could NOT help 'reacting' to your cancer situation in hope that God will allow some of the 'wisdom' he has provided through many folks for us to be a help to you and others. And again, you may freely 'take it or leave it' -- I am not in the least offended if it is not sensible or worth checking out to you.

Sincerely in His wonderful grace,

Dave Neff
email: dave@neffemail.com