The day after Thanksgiving of 2016, Keith was diagnosed with stage four esophageal cancer. He has undergone various forms of treatment, including chemotherapies at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, where he began a routine of writing updates to friends and family every two weeks while receiving chemotherapy. These writings turned into a series of essays on meaning-making—how to make sense of the experience of a life-threatening disease and what has helped him cope. Recently these ruminations have been published as a book by Covenant Books.
In some of these essays, Roberts focused on advice to people who have a chronically ill friend, such as the chapter, “Awkward! What to Say (or NOT Say) to Friends with a Life-threatening Disease.” Other chapters are directed to the ill person, such as the essay “Planning for the Future When ‘Planning the Future’ Feels like an Oxymoron.” The reflections are sometimes informed by philosophical or theological analyses and sometimes by a sociological lens. (Keith has advanced degrees in both theology and sociology.)
According to early readers of this manuscript, the result is a musing of remarkable depth. For example, oncology nurse Dr. Patricia Nishimoto writes: “In my 45 years as an oncology nurse, this is the first author who has caused me to pause and reflect in a totally new way on the cancer journey. It is a privilege to read his inner dialog that is insightful, inquisitive, and thought-provoking. The author creates questions I have never considered and transforms and challenges my view of what it is to continue to live with purpose and meaning with a diagnosis of cancer.” (Patricia W. Nishimoto, DNS, Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist). Kathleen Korgen comments, “Keith Roberts’ Meaning Making with Malignancy is a life-enriching book on death and suffering; it helps us to make sense of not just an advanced cancer diagnosis, but our very lives. It is for cancer patients, caretakers, sociologists, theologians, clergy, and anyone looking for inspiration.” Maggie Cupit, author of Why God? Suffering through Cancer into Faith writes, “Keith Roberts shares his analysis as a sociologist and his innermost feelings as a human being as he processes what it means to have stage IV cancer. The result is a thought-provoking read for any person contemplating the meaning of suffering and illness. He encourages all of us to "make meaning" of whatever life throws at us.”
Keith A. Roberts, Meaning Making with Malignancy: A Theologically Trained Sociologist Reflects on Living Meaningfully with Cancer. 2018. Covenant Books. Paperback ISBN: 978-1-64003-748-9; E-book ISBN: 978-1-64003-749-6. More information on the book is available at http://covenantbooks.com/books/?book=meaning-making-with-malignancy.