The Destruction of a Man

Boxer of QuirinalThis year 233,000 American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, while almost the same number of American women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.

What breast cancer is for women prostate cancer is for men. And yet the funding of prostate cancer research is less than half that for breast cancer. In 2012, the National Cancer Institute spent $602.7 million on breast cancer, but only $256.3 million on prostate cancer. This amounts to $2,590 per new case of invasive breast cancer as opposed to $1,100 for every prostate case.

Feminists who complain about gender discrepancies in every other corner of American life are oddly silent about the discrepancy in cancer funding. But they do no more than mimic the silence of American men.

The National Football League, for example, promotes “A Crucial Catch,” a month-long campaign “to support the fight against breast cancer.” During October, NFL players wear pink game apparel, which is later auctioned off to raise money for breast cancer research.

And prostate cancer? The league does nothing whatever, even though—if the rates in the general population hold for them—242 of the men on the NFL’s active rosters this season will eventually come down with the cancer and forty-seven of them will die of it. [Read more...]

Quitting the Cancer Battle

Dessicated Seated NudeI am not a hero. After my last post, some readers wanted to know how I arrived at my attitude toward cancer, which is to be found somewhere between a religious person’s submis­sion and the cordial host’s welcome. A better question—one my oncologist and I wrestle with at every appointment—is why most cancer patients tumble into a bottom­less slough of despond.

My intention is not to criticize other cancer patients. To be told that you have a disease which is going to kill you in the next few months or years is to be slammed by a violent and remorseless truth that nothing in experience prepares you for. At first you can’t even process what your doctor is telling you, because there is nothing to which you can com­pare the news in order to make sense of it—it is a monster from beyond your imagination. Denial, self-pity, panic, despair: these are the natural reactions.

I was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer in the fall of 2007. Just before Sukkot my doctor phoned to warn that an “opacity” had shown up on my chest X-ray during a routine physical examination. To the Jews, Sukkot is zeman simhatenu, the “season of our rejoicing,” but there was little joy in our sukkah that year. Our season was one of dread. [Read more...]

The Mercy of Sickness before Death

Just so you understand: I am dying. I am in the end stage of metastatic prostate cancer, and after six-and-a-half years of close association with the disease, I have another six months to two years to live. That probably sounds exhibitionistic, but I don’t mean it to. Nor am I fish­ing for pity. Truth is, I’d sooner have your laughter.

Man says, “I’ve been diagnosed with terminal cancer, but I am going to fight it with everything I’ve got.” “My money’s on the cancer,” his friend says. Find me that friend.

When it is incurable, as mine is, cancer always wins in the end, but no one—I mean, no one—wants to hear any such thing. The preferred message in our culture is the sentimental one of hope. Hope is not, however, what the terminal cancer patient needs. Even if you believe in miracles, you cannot hope for one—not the way you hope the car’s skid comes to a stop before the cliff’s edge.

“By definition,” C. S. Lewis writes, “miracles must of course inter­rupt the usual course of Nature,” but if they were as common as mosquitoes in summer they wouldn’t be interruptions of the usual. [Read more...]

Holy Water

One must have faith and pray; the water will have no virtue without faith.”
–St. Bernadette

My daughter just finished a week at our local Catholic school’s day camp. She came home with a crèche she made from a shoebox, a St. Brigid’s cross of pipe cleaners, and a plastic bottle of holy water, blessed by the deacon.

“It’s not from Lourdes,” the catechist told us, apologetically. For Catholics, the spring at Lourdes—dug by the bare hands of St. Bernadette at the urging of Our Lady— is the champagne of holy water. I think the batch my daughter brought home actually came from the water fountain in the school hallway. I was sitting out there with my toddler when the volunteers filled the plastic basin.

My own elementary school was named for Our Lady of Lourdes, and Mary was our patron and mascot to the point of insanity. My memories of religious education consist almost entirely of stories of Marian apparitions and miracles. Even slumber party games of Bloody Mary conjured images of a glowing lady in a cave, whispering secrets. One of my best friends had an actual glow-in-the-dark Mary I made her hide in a drawer when I slept over. [Read more...]

The Collapse of Western Civilization Begins in Your Dentist’s Chair

I have a toothache that’s getting worse, but I’m not going to a dentist because he’ll try to give me cancer.

The word you’re looking for is hyperbole, and you are mistaken. Let me explain.

What’s the first thing a new dentist does? X-rays. Why? A cynical man might point to the sizable profit margin. But, according to spokesmen for the molar-industrial complex, however, frequent x-rays are essential for my wellbeing. I might have a rotting root, a twisted tooth. Heck, I may even have mouth cancer. An x-ray, dental advocates explain, could save my life.

According to news reports, however, dental x-rays cause cancer. Pro- and anti-x-ray forces have drawn battle lines. An alliance with the wrong side may kill me. [Read more...]