Monday, April 1, 2013

patience and shuffle the cards

How in God’s name, living with lung cancer, can I not think about death, resurrection and all the afterlife stuff on Easter Sunday.

Living with a fatal diagnosis I am finding paradoxical. ‘Sooner than later’ has a way of bringing feelings and reflections on both life and eternal life out of the abstract.

Raised Irish Catholic and by a Mom who was a psychiatric nurse who even assisted with Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross’s near death studies. Death and dying conversations in general I suspect may have been more frequent at our family dinner table than others.

During my college years at University of Maryland, I even took and aced two Death Education courses as an elective with Daniel Leviton. While already more than familiar with Ross’s book “On Death and Dying” and her hypotheses of the five stages of dying, I was introduced to a pioneering book by Herman Feifel, “The Meaning of Death”.

A teacher until the very end Daniel Leviton died of esophageal cancer in Spring 2011, “There is no solid evidence that death education reduces anxiety about death” he once remarked “Death always comes as a surprise.”

Fortunately Patti’s Multiple Sclerosis dementia is a welcomed recess and frankly ‘the big exception’ to the above. In Patti’s mind I have no lung cancer. From the moment I pick her up from her care facility until I transfer her from her wheelchair to bed – I live in the time of before lung cancer.

Long a fan of Cervante’s “Don Quixote”, I’m reminded of Montesinos’ cave. An underworld cave where Don Quixote spends three nights conversing with deceased knight errant’s of old. On the third morning, Quixote emerges from the enchanted cave having learned, “great exploits are reserved for great personages. And if it be otherwise, O cousin, I say, patience and shuffle the cards”.

I am no great personage but I have learned that by shuffling the cards of fate, dementia trumps lung cancer.

As does Easter Sushi trump Easter Ham, but I did not need to spend 3 nights in an enchanted cave to know that, Patti’s dislike of ham predates onset of MS related cognitive challenges and dementia. 

Today it’s time to devote some time to aiming my inner knight errant self at trying to outlive lung cancer. My growing anxieties over country mouse cancer treatment medicine were only exacerbated by Easter Sunday table talk with Patti's family.

Table talk catapulted calling The MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center Thoracic Cancer Center in Baltimore, MD just a 90 minute drive to ‘city mouse’ cancer treatment medicine to the top of my ‘to do’ list for bringing a cannon to my lung cancer fight.

Patrick Leer
Health Activist:
Caregivingly Yours, MS Caregiver @


  1. Hey Patrick! A relatively new book on death - "Erasing Death: The science that is rewriting the boundaries between life & death" by Sam Parnia. Incredibly cool book. You can also hear an interview with him about his book on NPR. It's hard to admit that you think about death a lot publicly because people think you're morbid and creepy, so it's nice to hear that I'm not alone here. Hope you had a great Easter!

    1. Thanks Ruth! I'm checking my county library on line catalog as soon as I type this. Thanks also for the smile about "morbid and creepy" but when you actually have one foot in the grave it's impossible NOT to think about death and few who we can talk to about it.

  2. It was a great read about cancer treatment. Thanks for sharing.