Faith & Family: My Oncologist Has Cancer (Part 3)


It’s one thing to be given a cancer diagnosis. It’s another matter to be told there is no known cure for that cancer. And it’s a whole other ballgame to learn there’s no recognized effective treatment either.

My oncologist, Dr. Marc Hirsh, has been smacked with this reality in the three months since he was diagnosed with an extremely rare atypical carcinoid of the thymus gland. And like so many facing a life-threatening illness, his world looks a little different.

“I’m learning to appreciate the moment– like when I take a deep breath and it doesn’t hurt and I don’t cough,” Marc told me in a recent phone interview. “And having medicine to control the pain is really great.”

So how does he get through the day without obsessing about his discouraging diagnosis and poor prognosis?

“I’m staying as active as possible–walking around our property everyday,” he said. “I also get a lot of joy in reading and studying.”

Music also brings much happiness to Marc, who has been “playing a lot of keyboard” since his diagnosis. (He also plays piano, guitar, saxophone and harmonica –and does a great Bob Dylan vocal.)

Since 1991 when I started the Cancer Prayer Support Group, Marc has entertained and  inspired his patients and their families at our semi-annual dessert concerts. Whether playing “Go Tell It on the Mountain” with a boogie beat or changing popular song wording to share his testimony (Aretha Franklin’s “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman” became “You Make Me Feel Like a New Creation”), he brought much happiness to the crowds which eagerly gathered.

But Marc said what gives him the most joy each day is being with his family.

“I feel really fortunate to have my great wife and kids and grandkids here with me,” he said. “And all the cards I get are great, too.”

One of Marc’s favorite Bible passages, which helps him to “focus on living in the moment and not worrying about tomorrow” is found in the Sermon on the Mount.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?…But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:25-27, 33-34

Still Marc acknowledged that “living for the moment is easier said than done.” In fact, he hesitated to offer advice on coping with cancer.

“We’re all so unique and God has created each one of us in a unique fashion, so I don’t think there’s a five-step solution,” he explained. “But I think we all need to find some meaning in the midst of the diagnosis. And we need to face our own death and not be in denial.

“I’ve always thought it’s a paradox that God is in control while life is random and chaotic ,” he added. “But whatever happens to my body, I know that my spirit is eternal  and when my body dies, it’s not the final answer.”

“I am the resurrection and the life.
Anyone who believe in me will live, even after dying.

Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die.”
John 11:25-26

P.S. (If you want to know how Marc, a Jewish physician, met the Great Physician and became a Christ-follower in 1979, I share that story in my first book When God & Cancer Meet.)

FYI Marc has a new blog where he explores medical, theological and philosophical issues related to his cancer journey. To sign-up for a free subscription, go to:

Be sure to open in your browser to hear “Bound to Come Some Trouble,” another song by Marc’s favorite Christian artist, Rich Mullins.

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