Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Big C - A Plea for a New Future

***My cousin Kelly, passed away after a short battle with cancer.  She was in Hospice for the last month.  Whoever founded that blessed organization deserves a Pulitzer Prize. Hospice has allowed people the freedom to die relatively pain free, in the dignity of a peaceful setting, or their own home, rather than the impersonal, institutional ambiance of a hospital.  I realize Hospice is not for everyone, but in my experience, it’s   an honorable recognition of the need that dying can be a highly personal process for the terminally ill.  Hospice allows friends and family to be together in a familiar, relaxed, gentler, environment while providing pain management and palliative care.   Kelly’s illness and death has been a devastating blow to so many of us who admire and love her.  I’ve walked this path many times before with other loved ones; helplessly standing by as my grandmother, mother, several aunts, a respected mentor, friends, and my beloved spouse, were stricken by this monstrous disease. In every case they all were hopeful and positive, willing to do whatever it took to beat their cancer. They all had so much life yet to experience and a positive attitude was already a part of their DNA.  Many in the medical community tout this as being a requirement for healing.  It’s not nearly enough. It’s almost an insult to those who fight so hard to turn their diagnosis into a success story. If positive attitudes were even a small part of the arsenal in battling cancer, both my cousin and spouse, would be here right now.  This is an insidious, powerful, disease, bordering on satanic.  As a society, we have not done nearly enough to eliminate it.  My frustration over the years has often consumed me.  I’ve donated my time, my dollars and enough prayers to lay a direct path to the gates of heaven.   The course of treatment used on my husband’s colon cancer, was identical to the approach, 30 years prior, in treating my grandmother.  The outcome, in both cases, rendered the same results; death within 18 months.   The suggested regime turned healthy bodies into poisoned, sickly ones unable to take in nourishment or function, as our answer to modern medicine, destroyed their immune systems more rapidly than the cancer invading surrounding organs.  Radiation killed tumors, as well as healthy tissue and drug my loved ones into an unimaginable bone crushing weariness. The chemicals injected into their bodies to kill the enemy cells, wiped every good one out as well, unlocking the doors and opening them wide to further invasion by rapacious, multiplying bad cells. I think the methods of treatment today are as barbaric and nonsensical as using leeches or the blood letting performed a century ago. I don’t believe it’s the best we can do.  Why aren’t we encouraging a more holistic approach as well: meditation, massage, and nutritional therapies? 
 We can communicate through a variety of amazing mediums around the world.... within seconds!   We can grow a human being in a test tube with a single egg and sperm.  We can translate a foreign language using the appropriate application, with a swipe of a smart phone.  Why can’t we figure out why a microscopic cell turns mutinous and coerces it’s fellow cellmates to overtake our good health?  Can we use some of the great minds blossoming in the laboratories of MIT and John Hopkins as well as other scientific institutions of higher learning to focus directed attention to the mysteries of cancer?  Isn’t this much more important than having the ability to use our smart phone to identify the best deal in the area, or the technology to interactively engage in Farmville with our thousands of Facebook friends?  I’m not minimizing the benefits and beauty of technology and social media here, but can we use the same genius that developed all of that, to find a cure for a single militant cell? Why can’t we globally pool our resources and develop one huge body of research, combining mega funds and the best minds in a central research location; a giant army of trained warriors so to speak, working as a team to loosen the grip of this biological terrorist?  Cynically, I used to think  the Big C is even bigger business and those that reap the profits would never allow for a cure.  These kinds of questions continue to arise in my mind, every time a beautiful human being is robbed of growing old. 
 I know my cousin and all my loved ones are in a better place.   Ironically, the night before she died, I received a gift. I watched a special on television hosted by Bob Woodruff, who suffered a life threatening brain injury and had a near death experience.  He reported his own story as well as several others, all different faiths and beliefs; even a young child.  The common thread weaving through every one of their narratives was their encounter with loved ones who had passed before and a feeling of the most indescribable peace they had ever experienced.  None of them wanted to return to their earthly lives. As they passed into this other place, they described  a sense of well-being, and wholeness; all suffering had completely slipped away.  Before I dozed off that evening, an inner voice spoke and said to me, “You can rest knowing this will be her experience too.  She will be greeted by her brother and grandmother.  She will feel vital and whole again.   Most of all, she won’t know suffering, anymore.”   
My hopeful wish for all of those who have walked the path of a cancer diagnosis as well as those of us who love them, is that we will encourage and support these great young scientific minds who have figured out how to make our daily lives easier, more productive, and social, to come together and figure out how we can simply live in a world that is cancer free.

Kelly J. Kurtzman Obituary: View Kelly Kurtzman's Obituary by Telegraph-Forum
***Article  written by Rebecca Mahoney for the Galion Inquirer, Saturday, August 13, 2011 Edition