Like many who get a serious disease, I never thought it would happen to me. Most of you know that I have been living with Multiple Sclerosis for almost a decade now. Somehow I figured that this would suffice on the health challenges front. I've learned a lot from living with it and the limitations MS brings.
But I certainly never expected to get cancer. In early October 2017, I started having problems with my abdomen. At first, it felt just like indigestion, but then my stomach started distending. I was gaining a pound/day despite having trouble eating. I never knew just how vain I was until this happened!
After a whole bunch of tests and visits to various doctors, it turned out that I had a somewhat rare and aggressive form a cancer called Signet Cell Adenocarcinoma of unknown origin. This basically means that we don't know where the primary tumor is, but are only seeing evidence of a metastasis in my G-I tract. Thus my doctors have diagnosed this as a stage four cancer that likely cannot be cured. As I am only 47-years-old, this news was really shocking when I received it.
So presumably you're here because our paths have crossed at some point. Given the outpouring of support I've received from all corners, it's simply impossible for me to respond to everyone in a timely way, especially as I go through treatment. I thought perhaps this website would be a good way for me to give regular updates on what is happening. I'll do my best to keep it updated.
But, in providing regular updates, I'd also like to explore something else with you -- what it means to die well from a Christian perspective, for this is what I'm really seeking to learn in this chapter of my life. A few generations ago, people gave serious thought to this topic - and there's a vast literature on the subject going back centuries. I recognize that we live in a culture that celebrates youth and would rather do almost anything than discuss death. To some, this topic may sound depressing. Let me guarantee that it's not.
As it turns out, the key to "the art of dying" (as those in the medieval period called it) is first learning how to live well. The pursuit of character is central to this, but learning to love well is everything. This art of dying is what I'd like to explore in the coming weeks, months (and God willing) years on this site.
What I'm trying to avoid is the very real temptation to "medicalize" death. This means turning over the decisions to the experts (my doctors) and not taking responsibility for my life. The tragedy is that modern dying tends to cut us off from the love of our various communities and to move God out of the picture in favor of the very tangible help medical science can bring.
Yet, in my case, the wonders of modern medicine might keep me alive a little longer, but it can't teach to me how to live well. This is up to me to pursue. Is it possible to find joy and contentment in the midst of very real suffering? I hope that it is. The poet TS Eliot put it well:
Of belonging to another, or to others, or to God/ The only wisdom we can hope to acquire/ Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
And this is where the joy comes from -- finally stripping down the pretense and the defensive shields and simply finding joy in the daily delights (and hurts) of living. By dying to ourselves my hope is that we might all learn how to live a little bit better. I can't think of anything more important to learn. I'd be honored if you'd join me on this journey as I try to learn the art of dying well.