Cancer Journal: Not to Hope

La rivière des Outaouais, from le Chateau Montebello, Québec.

Last February, my surgeon told me that I had “months, not years,” and no further treatment options were available.

Today, February 10, 2022, I skied 5 kilometres. Pathetic, by the standards of my youth, which only shows how warped those standards were. Gratitude is all I feel today, and it was likewise the appropriate emotion 50 years ago.

You might expect me to quote Churchill,

Never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in.

And that you shouldn’t listen to a doctor who says you are going to die.

No. Listen to doctors. Don’t be bitter if they tell you things you do not want to hear, not even if reality proves them wrong. Physicians make mistakes and work in broken systems that no one knows how to fix.

If you are told there are no more options, but you think you can still live, by all means, seek other medical opinions.

However, never giving up is delusional. I will die; there will be a time when the right choice is acceptance. Or surrender if the process isn’t going well.

Am I counselling you to be hopeless? I hope not, but I am saying to be careful to hope for the right thing. I have this moment, not forever: What should I hope for right now?

I don’t know yet.

  • If you know someone who has cancer, consider sending them a link to this post.
  • To read the Cancer Journal from the start, please begin here.
  • A table of contents for the Cancer Journal is here.
  • To get the Cancer Journal in email, subscribe here.


Hidden information below


Email Address*