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Combating Cancer

When asked, “Where’s Plum Lick?” I usually say, “It’s on the Plum Lick Road alongside Plum Lick Creek about a half of a mile upstream from Plum—but it’s also an attitude.”

Never was it ever so true. Plum Lick lives—and breathes—and there’s hardly any medicine as fine as attitude.

Whenever I’m in doubt as to the condition and temper of my whereabouts, my thinkabouts, and my beliefabouts, I remember what’s known as Oliver’s Law of Location: “No matter where you go, there you are.” Baggage here, baggage there; challenge here, challenge there; good or bad feelings here, good or bad feelings there.

Since November 2007, I’ve been back and forth on the road to the M.D. Anderson Medical Center in Houston, Texas. Accepted as a patient in a pharmaceutical/medical study for which I feel blessedly grateful, I think of it as a gift from the Almighty, the Great Healer.

As family and friends know, I’ve been battling prostate cancer for the past 14 years. Well, I knew time was running out as it is for the healthy as well as the not so pert. Radiation worked for several years, lighting me up like a Christmas tree; hormonal therapy worked for a time, but the tumor decided it wanted to live every bit as much as I did.

Combat forces join.

Chemotherapy made a flanking attack on the enemy and drove it back for the better part of 2007, but just when we thought we might have unconditional surrender, there was another counterattack. My PSA (prostate specific antigen) shot back up again. That’s when I showed up on the doorstep of M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, a central part of The University of Texas.

Their motto here is: “Making Cancer History.”

I’m much in favor of that. Other diseases have been conquered, why not cancer?

Many people from all over the world have come to M.D. Anderson, and they are making a difference.

For example, Alma Rodriguez, M.D., is vice president for medical affairs. Interviewed in the cancer center’s Messenger publication, Doctor Rodriguez leads the “institutional survivorship initiative.” She says, “Our research is currently primarily directed at curing cancer, that is, killing tumor cells. The proposed research agenda for survivorship starts at the point of diagnosis, but continues to assess information about the patient as a whole throughout his or her lifespan.”

I like the sound of that too.

No quick fixes. No guarantees. But for young and old there’s an opportunity and a challenge to fight the good fight. “We are soldiering,” says my young nurse, Melissa J. Pumarega, R.N. She schedules my chemo infusions.

“Tell me about yourself,” said my doctor, Paul Mathew, M.D., upon our first meeting. And, he wanted to know about my helpmate, Lalie, seated nearby, who has remained with me throughout the struggle. When I asked him about his origin he smiled and thoughtfully said, “I’m a man of the world” (born in Africa of East Indian parents).

I especially rejoiced on the day when Nurse Pumarega walked up to my bedside and said, “I’ve done a little art work—would you look at it and tell me what you think?”

It was a graph depicting the progress of my PSA—DOWN over 200 points since the first infusion less than a month ago! I gave nurse Pumarega a tearful hug.

As an outpatient, I watch and listen to the thousands passing through. There are more smiles than frowns; there is laughter; many signs of encouragement.

One I found on a message board. I thought it would be good news to share.

What Cancer Cannot Do
It cannot cripple love
It cannot shatter hope
It cannot corrode faith
It cannot destroy peace
It cannot kill friendship
It cannot suppress memories
It cannot silence courage
It cannot steal eternal life

It cannot
Conquer the Spirit!

To which I add—Praise be the Great Healer.

If you’d like to learn more about The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, their Web site is www.mdanderson.org.

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