Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Death from Pancreatic Cancer

April 30, 2010 -
My niece, Laura Turner, 53, died this morning in Huntsville, Alabama, from a rapidly progressive pancreatic cancer. Laura is one of 40,000 Americans who will die this year from this devastating malignancy. Its cause is unknown. Less than 5% of its victims survive 5 years. And surgery and chemotherapy are ineffective in treating it.

I know of no other disease in which patients and physicians feel so helpless in stemming its relentless tide. Pancreatic cancer personifies our ignorance of the forces of biology and the limitations of medical science. For now, we shall simply have to consider pancreatic cancer an Act of God, like the tornado that stuck Huntsville two days before she died.

Laura was a plain-spoken and clear-eyed person. She was full of earthy humor. In her way, she was spiritual. She was baptized a few weeks before her death. She was loved and loving, and I shall miss her. Her death brings to mind John Donne’s famous sonnet.

“Death , be not proud, though some have called thee.

Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so.

For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow.

Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.

From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee.

Much pleasure, then from thee much more must flow.”

Tweet: Pancreatic cancer and hurricanes may be Acts of God, but that doesn’t make them any easier to take as acts of a merciful deity.

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