Living with Uncertainty: My Oncologist Has Cancer (Part 4)


Would you like to hear some GOOD NEWS today?It has been 4.5 months since my oncologist and former employer, Dr. Marc Hirsh (pictured above with me in 1999) was diagnosed with an extremely rare cancer.  It has no known cure nor effective treatment, but Marc finished his self-prescribed regime of 30 days of radiation and chemotherapy a week ago. That in itself–as all of us cancer survivors know–is something to celebrate.

And there’s more GOOD NEWS.

“I’m feeling much better,” he told me in yesterday’s phone interview. “My swallowing is about 80-percent improved. The nausea is gone. I’m not as tired as I was, and my appetite is picking up.

“It feels great not to have to get up and take a treatment,” Marc added. “I felt like I was poisoning myself, but it was something I had to do.”

But there’s even more GOOD NEWS.

Marc’s radiation oncologist, Dr. Michael Watson told him that the tumor has “significantly shrunk.” More imaging will be done in about a month to measure the decrease and check for any new spots, but the early scans are encouraging.

However,  after practicing oncology for 31 years, Marc knows good news quickly can change to bad.

“The tumor is still there and it’s just a question of whether it will act up,” he explained. “I wonder how long this window of remission or ‘holiday’ will last. I have faith and believe that anything is possible and it could go on for years, but it could be only weeks or months.”

Still, given the “dramatic  and weird way” the cancer first presented May 23, Marc is grateful for how much his situation has improved.

“I had this big (12 cm) tumor pressing on my heart, pericarditis (inflammation of the heart lining), chest pain,  constant headaches from pressure on a blood vessel, a collapsed lung with a pleural effusion (excess fluid),  and I was short of breath,” he recalled. “I really thought I probably would die in a few weeks…So it’s amazing how good I feel now.”

When I asked Marc how he deals with the uncertainty his diagnosis/prognosis brings, he responded: “I’m sad and disappointed, but I still feel strong and optimistic.”

“You don’t know when adversity hits how you’re going to do,” he explained. “I’m lucky to have Elizabeth who has been at my side constantly. Not everybody has a partner with her strength and love, and my family has been here for me from the beginning.”

Marc,  a Jew who has believed in Jesus as his Messiah for the past 40 years, said he wondered if his faith would be the source of strength he expected it to be.

“I figured God would show up…and He did,” he said. “It’s been a confirmation of what I already believed.”

I asked Marc about Bible verses which have been especially encouraging during this trial and he immediately mentioned one of my absolute favorite scriptures:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away,
yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us
an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen,
since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:15-17

“There’s a lot of uncertainty, but I’m glad I’m not afraid of dying,” Marc added. “And I’m also very happy I’m still alive.”

We are too, Marc…We are, too.

Be sure to open this blog in your browser to hear the music videos “Be with You” and “The Love of God” by Rich Mullins, Marc and Elizabeth’s favorite Christian artist. I couldn’t make up my mind which song to pick, so you get a double blessing today. This second one is only a little over 2 minutes long and so worth your time.


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