Saturday, March 31, 2012

When All Hope Is Lost

After speaking to a Sunday School class recently, someone asked me, in so many words, when is it okay for a cancer victim to give up?  She mentioned knowing someone who had terminal cancer and there just didn't appear to be any hope for recovery.  Wow!  Tough, tough question.  Hard to answer it in a few words.  It may take multiple blogs to address this one.

First of all, this question runs counter to my philosophy of fighting cancer.  As stated in my book, "A Place I Didn't Want To Go: My Victory Over Cancer", an integral part of overcoming cancer is never giving up, no matter what the odds.  In his book, "Peace, Love & Healing", Dr.  Bernie Siegel puts it more succinctly in saying, "It doesn't matter what the disease is.  There is always room for hope.  I'm not going to die because of statistics."  Hence, a cancer victim always has to believe that there is a chance for recovery.  The more a person fights it, the greater the chances of overcoming it.

Another way to view this issue is by visiting a sports analogy.  It seems like the best coaches, no matter what the sport, are the ones who proclaim their team has a chance of beating a formidable foe, irregardless whether they are outmatched.  It would be better to have a coach say, "If we play well, we have a good chance of beating the other team" as opposed to saying, "We really don't have a chance to win".  Such a coach gets his players to believe in themselves and their abilities.  The result?  Lo and behold, sometimes the underdog does win against incredible odds. 

In addition, a good coach gets his team to play hard throughout the entire game.   Even though his team may get down by a few points or runs, he encourages them to keep playing hard.  Sometimes, as a result of the players' continuing effort, the game does change.  What may have looked like a sure loss at some point may actually become a victory.

In relation to this, the good coach doesn't give up until the waning moments of a game, when, and only then, it is inevitable his team will lose.

So, in response to the question about giving up when all hope is lost, I think the cancer patient should fight bravely until all chance of recovery is nonexistent.  The patient, and the patient alone, should decide when it's time to give up.  Dying of cancer is not a failure.  Unfortunately, it's a  normal part of life in this lost and fallen world.

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