Charles Lewis: Cancer is back, so I have a request …

  • February 24, 2021

I had some concern about writing this column, worried that it might be construed as self-pitying or a way of drawing attention to myself. But as a Catholic I wanted to bring attention to myself so prayers would come my way. So this is why I am writing about the news I received a few weeks ago that my liver cancer had returned.

I have a deep faith that I am pleased to say has not been shaken. And part of faith is to believe in the power of prayer.

I learned long ago that faith is a foundation and not a fleeting feeling. Faith to me is the greatest reality.

I am also lucky. I have a good warm home, beautiful wife and good friends. I cannot imagine what I would be like without those elements in my life. But I also know there are people whose struggles are worse than mine, who go through life alone and burdened with uncertainty. We should always remember them in our prayers.

This is not my first dance with the sickness. I have been dealing with a painful spinal problem for nine years and living off daily morphine so I am somewhat battle hardened, though at times it is exhausting.

About five years ago I had a cancerous tumour on my liver and it was removed by burning it off with electricity. Every year since I have gone for an ultrasound to make sure I was cancer free. Then in January I went for my annual ultrasound but this time I was told go back for a CT scan and I figured something must be wrong.

The cancer returned. The liver specialist said this was a serious situation. He said a radiologist, who would use a technique called Y90, would contact me.

I was too stunned to ask what “serious” meant, though in a later conversation I got a better idea. Essentially he meant do not fool around with this. When you get an appointment with the radiologist do not put it off. This is your priority.

He also explained that serious also meant it could be lethal. Not that it would be tomorrow or next month, but the potential is there.

I started reading about Y90. I learned it uses a catheter to deliver radioactive beads to the cancerous area. The beads then break down the tumour by stopping the flow of blood to the area. It is also effective.

From what I have read, though, the Y90 technique is considered palliative. Having volunteered at a palliative ward I immediately thought the end was coming. I have since found out that palliative does not necessarily mean finality. It simply means treating the cancer to slow it down.

I hesitated to let people know but then I realized I did not want to go through this alone or have the entire weight of this on Kathryn.

Also, I have often prayed for people — the Divine Mercy Novena is my prayer of choice — when they or their relatives were sick. I know it brought some comfort to those I prayed for.

Besides, why hide it? Would not that be a form of pride?

I also have reminded myself that at any time I wrote or spoke out against euthanasia the core of my argument was advancement in medicine. We all know that even 40 years ago many cancers were a death sentence. Not so anymore. I know people who had stage four cancer five years ago are doing well today. They still have cancer but it is kept at bay.

So it turns out what I have been saying all these years was true. I finally spoke to the radiologist who will do the procedure in the middle of March. He was reassuring. He said he was confident the procedure would help. It would not cure the cancer but slow it down. I might even be cancer free for two years. And if it should it come back, and it very well might, not all is lost.

To be honest, I am tired of illness and fear more pain in my life. But somehow I know I will get through this. I ask you to pray for my strength.

Besides, the worst that can happen was going to happen one day anyway. As my late father, who was a combat veteran, said often: No one gets out alive.

I do not think that will ever appear on a Hallmark card but no truer words were ever spoken.

(Lewis is a Toronto writer and regular contributor to The Register.)

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