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The Dreaded C Word Or The Disease Which Will Remain Nameless

Oliver Sacks’ brave disclosure about his terminal cancer in the New York Times:  “My Own Life: Oliver Sacks on Learning He Has Terminal Cancer,” on February 19th,  brings to mind another choice of dealing with an illness which we encountered here in Israel just the other day.

Earlier this year we were informed that one of our ministers, Uri Orbach, a relatively young man, was gravely ill. On February 16th 2015 at the age of 54 he died.  After his passing, still, there was no mention of the exact nature of his disease. Wikipedia in Hebrew specifically states that in 2012 Orbach was diagnosed as having hematological disease.

Whether it is a private or a public figure, the decision to share with others the details of an illness, is personal. But having  lost my husband to cancer at the age of 55 I feel that it could be very beneficial to talk openly about the disease.

Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel


Recent Comments
Stephen Evans
I agree. and I thought Oliver Sacks op-ed was so beautifully written.
Tuesday, 24 February 2015 02:23
Orna Raz
Thank you dear Stephen, I was very impressed with Sacks' wisdom and honesty
Tuesday, 24 February 2015 19:21
Less than 3 months ago, maybe two, a woman friend came up to me at a meeting and told me she had just found out she had lung cance... Read More
Wednesday, 25 February 2015 01:00
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A Bit of Luck

I've had friends who witnessed some interesting history.


I know. Bold statement. Who would believe I have friends? Actually, I still have friends. Humans and animals. And I mean friends, not just family or creatures I feed. I can line them up for vetting. They’ll stand up for me, with the right incentives. Money, beer, wine, chocolate, kibble treats, belly rubs, favors, begging, promises. I know how to bribe them.

Back in my military life in the late 80s and early 90s, we often had get-togethers, hanging around at someone's house or a club, comparing life notes. These usually centered around who we knew, what we’ve done, where we’d been. While almost everyone shared unique and interesting tales, one couple told tales of extraordinary luck, with photos. They’d been in the vicinity or had witnessed multiple major accidents and incidents. Challenger disaster, they’d been stationed in the area and were watching the launch when it blew. They were in Japan in the 1980s when the Soviets downed KAL flight 007. (They were also there when the Soviet pilot defected with a MIG.) Thunderbirds augering in en mass, they were at the support base, checking out the Thunderbirds that day. C130 doing a failed low level extrication in an air show, they were there. They'd been trying to get on the C141 that hit the mountain, were there at Paris Air Show when the MIG crashed, and at Ramstein when the Italian aerobatic team had their accident, killing 70 people. They told about being at these events and others, and shared their disaster photo albums of dated Kodak, Polaroid and Fuji testaments, along with newspaper clippings from local papers and Stars and Stripes.

Geez, what luck, we all commented, what are the odds? Talking about odds brought up other tales relating to winning lotteries and SuperBowl tickets, averting death by not getting on flights, surviving tornadoes, hurricanes, and diseases, like cancer.

A new study tells us that cancer and other diseases are mostly a matter of luck. Orna Raz captured my sentiment and I refer you to her column. It’s not a relief to learn, guess what, living badly will not necessarily kill you and living well will not necessarily save you, because it’s still happening. You still have the losses. That doesn’t stop us from searching for a difference. Whenever diseases, disasters and accidents are discussed, we ponder, what could be done differently? How can we save ourselves, evade pain, or stay alive as long as possible? Television shows geared toward surviving disasters have evolved. And guess what? Another article I saw today – on Faceback – claims cancer will kill very few people under the age of 80 by 2050.

So we make slow progress as a society, life by life. Living is a lot safer than it used to be, although people still die. Personally, I’ve witnessed fate’s random strikes among friends and family. Who has not known of people dying of stomach, liver, lung, brain, or pancreatic cancer? My wife, a life-long exercise, health and fitness devotee, has been struck with a series of symptoms that began sixteen years ago. First it was thought to be TMJ, then Lymes Disease and other things. Now it’s believed to be RA. Through it all, she and I questioned, how and why? What could she, the vegetarian exercise monster, have done differently? She rarely drank, didn’t smoke. I've seen her tipsy once. The females on her side lived into their 90s even before the evolution of life prolonging modern health care. Her mother, who doesn’t exercise, smoke or drink is into her mid-eighties. Meanwhile, I smoked pipes and cigars, drank scotch and whiskey, beer and wine, ate bizarre foods in bizarre lands and trudged across toxin ridden zones, made so by military drippings and warfare. Nothing has struck so far. Knock on wood.


So the article confirmed for me what I often suspected, that much of what happens to us is mostly luck, and you can’t always make your own luck. Sometimes it’s just being spun out of the ether of living. 

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The Bad Luck Of Cancer Patients

When my husband was diagnosed with lung cancer at the age of fifty five, a year and a half after he had been treated for prostate cancer, he asked his doctor whether the two cancers were related and what was the reason for his illness? The doctor answered that it was an extreme case of bad luck. Five months later he died, and then I started  hearing comments from different people about my husband’s role in his tragic destiny. They never explicitly said that it was his own fault that he died, but implied that perhaps it was because he had been unhappy in his childhood, (or with me). Often they inquired whether he smoked, disliked his job, didn’t exercise or ate junk food.

The people who either shared those speculations with me or asked questions about my husband’s life style and emotional being, must have thought that finding the reason for his illness would help me come to terms with my loss.  It didn't.

Please keep reading at the Times Of Israel

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The Grit Under The Shell

As it's October, Breast Cancer Awareness month, I'm revisiting a post which first appeared on two years ago. I hope it will give courage to any reader going through a similar experience just now. 


The turn of events this summer has caused me to reflect on the nature of fear and how it distorts perspective. The chimera takes on a palpable form, prompting actions that aren't contained in an imagined world, but have negative consequences, even fatal consequences, in the human arena when released into the ether. What is war but fear of another's capability to destroy us, or to sequester those resources we deem essential to wealth and happiness?

Fear is the first and last enemy.

Behind every fear lurks the shadow of death. Death is many things and 'death' as transition from the mortal state may be the least of them. Death is what happens when we can no longer see those we love. But death assumes other guises, always vanishing from the corner of our vision whilst remaining unnervingly present in the wings. Fear of losing power, possession and control over circumstances, when a desired and seemingly philanthropic end justifies dubious and destructive means, isn't that the real death?

On November 1 (All Saints Day) I'll be undergoing surgery for breast cancer. Yes, it's the Big C word, but I'm lucky. It's not far advanced and is not the most dangerous form. But there are complications as regards the actual site. It's just possible that it wouldn't have given any trouble. I had no symptoms, so no inkling that anything was wrong. It was picked up by a routine check which is ironic because I feel healthier than for years. Since then, a series of scans and biopsies seems to indicate that, so far, it hasn't spread. I'm hoping and praying that lab tests after surgery will confirm that. Chemo and radiotherapy are likely to be on the agenda but need a careful 'balance of risks' assessment for those approaching the 'season of mists and mellow fruitfulness'. I'm not at all sure I'll opt for routine treatments. There's no right or wrong. There are choices.

As a vegetarian, almost a vegan, dietary strategy has needed only a little tweaking. It's been interesting how I've experienced cravings for those ingredients which will best fight off the disease (this, before I knew why!) Honey, lemon, cayenne*, pak choi, parsley, turmeric, green green leaves, apricots, almonds, brazils, black pepper, olives, berries, ginger, green tea, black tea, red and black grapes, Mediterranean foods, and goats' cheese which hides no harmful bovine growth hormone. These things not only strengthen the immune system, but some contain specific substances that actively target cancer cells and the way oestrogen acts upon them. There's a lot of academic research out there about natural aromatase inhibitors which has excited and intrigued biochemists. Dramatic results have been obtained on some quite advanced cancers. I guess it won't be long before pharmaceutical companies are patenting our hedgerows and vegetable patches as Monsanto has done with broccoli! This, aside from what can be achieved through professional homoeopathic treatment for individual constitution.

But I'd be lying if I pretended this blow hasn't been a rollercoaster, especially in the early stages. We have to remember, though,that nothing is a guarantee of life or death. We naturally look for securities, but to expect a settled life on this fluctuating planet is to be prepared to live with illusion. The only thing to do is to get on with living and look over this hurdle into the wide blue yonder. I can't do as some are able to do, deny the diagnosis – though, strangely, there is evidence that it may work - but I can, through the strengthening grace of God, deny it's power to instill fear and to prejudice the future.

I am not a victim. I am not a statistic. Statistics may illustrate broad trends. What is factored in, what is left out, who construes the results, all call for penetrating analysis. I am, quite simply, in the hands of God and grateful beyond words for the kind thoughts and prayers of friends, especially as family is small. Prayer keeps us afloat and prevents us from being pulled down into the undertow, no matter that the circumstances themselves may appear unaltered.

Two things I've learnt from the past. One, that some of the most joyful and enriching experiences arrive in the midst of trauma and crisis – how is that possible? Two, that there needs to be irritating grit under the shell for the oyster to weep its precious tears of pearl.

If you happen to be facing the enemy just now, I hope that some of this, and the quotes that follow, will encourage you.

God bless!

The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek. Joseph Campbell

All is well, tho' faith and form/ Be sunder'd in the night of fear. Alfred Lord Tennyson

When we fear things I think that we wish for them... every fear hides a wish. David Mamet

Fear is the parent of cruelty. James Anthony Froude

No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear. Edmund Burke

I will show you fear in a handful of dust. T S Eliot

Fear has many eyes and can see things underground. Miguel de Cervantes

Oh, we can populate the dark with horrors, even we who think ourselves informed and sure, believing nothing we cannot measure or weigh. I know beyond all doubt that the dark things crowding in on me either did not exist or were not dangerous to me, and still I was afraid. John Steinbeck

The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. Nelson Mandela

That's all it takes, one drop of fear to curdle love into hate. James M Cain

A man that flies from his fear may find that he has only taken a short cut to meet it. J R R Tolkien

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27


*My blog about cayenne


© © Rosy Cole 2014 & 2012

Recent Comments
Katherine Gregor
Very beautiful, and very touching, Rosy. Thank you.
Thursday, 30 October 2014 09:24
Rosy Cole
Thank you for stopping by and commenting so kindly, Katia. I live in Hope... ... Read More
Thursday, 30 October 2014 15:32
Deeply moving and beautifully written. Also enlightening, brave, strong, and incredibly generous. Thank you, Rosy.
Thursday, 30 October 2014 17:42
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