Dancing with Cancer

In all long battles, the struggle becomes a dance.  The mood lightens and darkens, the tempo shifts and on occasion, the one leading changes. 

I like the metaphor of dancing with cancer more than fighting.   If we dance for a long time and we are too tired to continue, then the dance is over.

But if we dance long enough, cancer may grow tired or quit – and we can keep dancing.


While I had cancer I knew many people who were diagnosed with serious medical conditions, including cancer.  One of those people was someone I had known my entire professional carrier.

I met Terry in 1984 or 1985.  He was the director of an addictions treatment program in a local hospital.  Terry supervised a number of future entrepreneurs, including a social worker who went on to start a medium size company providing employee assistance program, and a psychologist who later went on to create one of the largest privately held employee assistance programs in the world.  Both of these people benefited and learned from working with Terry.  He ran a successful program, provided good care for his patients and their families, excellent leadership for his staff, and maintained positive relations with hospital administration and the community.  I admired Terry and said frequently that I’d like to work for him. I believed and knew that I could learn a lot from Terry.

Terry and I stayed in contact over the years as our lives and careers unfolded and evolved.  Catching up with Terry at meetings of our professional associations was always great fun.  He was NOTORIOUS for standing outside the meeting room, holding court, telling stories and sharing rumors!  I am relatively certain that I never saw him sit through an entire meeting.  Terry frequently volunteered for the professional association providing good counsel and the necessary effort to make whatever he touched successful. When Terry said he would take care of something, you knew that he would. I always trusted Terry.  I had the good fortune to work with Terry for a time at a local employee assistance provider where his contributions dramatically improved the quality of our work.  Eventually our professional paths diverged again.

Terry was diagnosed with a blood cancer during the time I was being treated for my blood cancer.  Our conversations changed.  Now when we saw one another we didn’t gossip and tell stories, we talked about our doctors, hospitals, nurses and our chemo.  When one of us was or both of us were doing well we cheered for one another.  When things were not going well we whispered in lower voices about our treatment and our options.  About two years before my transplant Terry’s cancer changed and became more complicated and aggressive.  He delayed treatment and by some accounts he delayed for too long.  He needed a stem cell transplant.  He had no related matched donors.  A donor was found who was a nine out of ten match.  He had the transplant.

Over the course a few years, Terry has waged a steady and quiet battle with a silent and unrelenting enemy. As in all long battles, in time the struggle becomes a dance.  The mood lightens and darkens, the tempo shifts and on occasion, the one leading changes.  He was courageous in his dance and resolved to fight the good fight.  His faith in his God was unwavering.  Terry’s transplant did not cure his condition and he subsequently succumbed to his disease.

I feel lucky to have known Terry and as expected, I learned from him. I didn’t learn what I expected to learn, l learned more important lessons. Terry made a difference in the lives of many.