Monday, April 8, 2013

The Cancer Blog: Week 11

My Health

This blog within a blog will discuss cancer and all of my fears, hopes and expectations for a positive outcome—full and complete recovery. In addition, I plan to throw in some latest medical research. All cancer patients are interested, to some degree, in research and the latest medical findings; I am no exception. Today is Day 112  living with cancer; tomorrow is chemo session no. 5.


Friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness.

Is cancer contagious? I didn't think so, but by the way some friends and acquaintances have dropped out of my life, it makes me think I have become a persona non grata. Unwelcome. Again, I have adjusted to this new normal, and it's good information to have; after all, true friends are few and far between. As is the case with acquaintances—the rest are individuals who pass through your life for a moment or two and are gone. Neither forgotten, neither remembered.

Time to name names: Then there are friends like Mark O'Brien, who come into your life again after some absence; your words and continuing encouragement are a comfort to me. In Montreal, Prof. Gad Saad has been there for me offering intellectual stimulation when I needed it, which is often. Here in Toronto I want to thank Victor & Angela Zuckerman and Tamar Shuchat, who have done deeds of kindness that ought not be forgotten.  And there are friends who I have never met except through the online community; most exceptional has been Prof. George Jochnowitz of New York City, who not only has given me permission to publish his many thoughtful and original articles, but has offered many words of encouragement. My best friend and companion has, of course been my wife, Olga, who has to bear my shifting moods and kvetching. To all, I say thank you. You give truth to the words of Euripides.

The others, well, who really knows what happened.… It's true that some are fair-weather friends, unable to consider bad news or difficult times. Theirs is a world of happy thoughts and happy endings, a need to dispense unsolicited advice, a need to dictate outcomes and plans, a need to make themselves feel better, done more for the "giver who can't give than for the intended recipient, I suppose. Am I asking (demanding) too much?; if so, it's because I have given much; reciprocity is a normal and expected human response.

It's a common human weakness, no doubt, for some to only take or receive, a view highly coloured by how one views the battles of life; the grasp is greatest among the greedy and ignorant, and among those who fill their lives with busyness, it acting as an antidote to thinking and reflection, the most human of remedies. Even so, I would not want to live like this; it not only sounds boring but unreal, confining, anti-life.  Disingenuous. Yes, I judge with personal criticism, as I have a moral obligation as a writer to do. To not criticize would be a derelict of my duty. How else can you know?

I came across a CBC News link that shows how one artist, Robert Pope, viewed his battle with cancer. Pope, who didn't win the battle, nevertheless, did something monumental in bringing understanding to medical students and practitioners on how cancer patients view treatment and all its associated fears and hopes.
Robert Pope, Dalhousie medical school's first artist in residence, painted his journey with cancer. His work was displayed for medical students so that they could learn from what he went through and is now on exhibition for the public.
When you have cancer, as I do, you don't fear death; no, you affirm life. I think that might be the problem with too many people who never face the uncertainty of life—they don't really affirm life, only its shadows. Many will dismiss this as artistic imagery or nonsense, but then again such individuals often dismiss many things in life of value, including people that inconvenience or trouble them. Better to live in a bubble of denial? Such are the "winners" in the world, treading with heavy boots on the souls of men.


  1. On a few occasions, when a friend or acquaintance was in need of help or comfort, my mind went blank and I chose to become invisible. I don't know why such a thing should occur, but I recognize it as one of my many weaknesses.

    1. We all have weaknesees, being human, yet recognition of these can be helpful in overcoming them, that is, if that's our intent.

  2. Thanks,Perry -
    The best that can be said about ‘friends’ who disappear in hard times without excuse is, they feel they’re purposefully on their way to a place they have in mind, and are too preoccupied to cope with the untidy interruption - or to realize the privilege - of meeting a friend in need along the way. Their loss, no doubt!


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