“It will either kill the cancer or kill me,” I overheard the gray-haired man with the fleece vest say to the woman sitting next to him. We were sitting in the waiting room of the radiation department with half a dozen other people – both patients and care givers.

“What kind of cancer do you have?” the woman asked him.

“Esophagus,” he said.

“My husband has throat cancer,” she responded. In a radiation waiting room, the question is not “if” but “what kind.” “Can they do surgery?”

The man hesitated to answer. I could tell he wanted to answer just right. Everyone in the room was facing the same question for herself or her loved one.

“I’m not having surgery,” he said, making it obviously that this was his choice, not necessarily his doctor’s. “If the chemo and radiation don’t get it, then I’m done. I’m 75 years old; I don’t want to learn how to live all over again.”

The woman didn’t seem shocked by his answer.

Before the conversation could continue, the radiation tech called for the man with the fleece vest, and he left to do battle on the table.

A few minutes later, the woman’s husband emerged having completed his treatment for the day. He spoke through the hole in his throat, a scratchy, whispery voice. A man obviously learning how to live all over again.

Before they could leave the waiting room, I heard my name. I had a little battling of my own to do.


“This battle is not yours but the Lord’s. You have only to be still. – Exodus 14:14

Photo by epicnom, via Flickr, used with permission under the Creative Commons License.