I love being in the cancer community, but it gets tough sometimes. I get to cheer for those who are courageously fighting (and surviving) our cancer, but I am also sometimes in contact with those who lose our very tough battle.

I’ve learned there is no fairness in cancer, especially appendix cancer. I know of a 15 year old, a 21 year old and a 24 year old diagnosed with our disease. People with long and bright futures ahead of them. Mothers of very young children, people newly wedded, people newly retired. All fighting this monsterous disease.

I know of a few with appendix cancer who have never contacted me but who have linked their sites to my web page or blog. So, I check in on them now and then. I read their blogs or Caring Bridge sites. But I only rarely leave comments on their sites. I don’t want to intrude. But I love the comments to my blog, so maybe in my case it’s more laziness.

One site I’d been reading was “Life ‘O Dennis“. Dennis Rich had been fighting appendiceal cancer for 4 years, he was most recently being treated in Chicago, so he was almost my neighbor. He’d kindly linked my blog to his some time ago. So in a way we kind of had a relationship, though we’d never communicated. He didn’t have an email listed on his blog, but I could have commented on his site, I guess. But I didn’t. I just decided to check his site to see how he was doing, I’ve done that for awhile.

Dennis just lost his battle. I knew he was terminally ill, he knew it also. But I for some reason expected him to keep posting to his blog, even though I’d known he was terminally ill.

Dennis was only 37 when he died. He had a PhD in physics, he was a musician, he was a devout Christian. He’d taught physics for two years in a college only a few hours from my home. He’d published this entry on his blog:

“The battles ahead will be as much psychological as physical. Everything one lives for comes to the fore when faced with one’s mortality. Were the sacrifices of the life of faith worthwhile? For that matter, can I even boast in what little “sacrifices” I may have made? I trust in my God at this point, which is all we can do. He Who has proven able to turn the greatest of evils into the greatest of goods, can certainly turn my life into something of value. And even the end of my life.”

Dennis also posted this on his blog, it is profound wisdom:

God has created me to do him some definite service; he has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission; I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I have a part in a great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do his work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep his commandments and serve him in my calling.

Therefore I will trust him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain; he may prolong my life, he may shorten it; he knows what he is about. He may take away my friends, he may throw me among strangers, he may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me — still he knows what he is about.

John Henry Newman, Meditations and Devotions, III, 1855

Dennis’ life was of value to many, I can tell from the comments on his blog. I was able to learn of his courage and his faith and his endurance as I read his blog. His life was of great value to me.

I look forward to meeting him one day. And I so agree with Dennis, trusting in God is all we can do. That has been my greatest cancer lesson. I trust God without explanation, without understanding. I’ll learn the why’s later. I trust that someday it will all be made clear.

Joy and peace, Dennis. I am glad for you that your battle is over.