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Dateline: Saint George— Cancer: From Doubt To Hope

John Taylor

I enter the chamber, giving myself a TSA-like pat-down. I don’t want coins rolling under the radiation slab.

I partly undress, clamber aboard the trolly and quickly assume a funereal pose, arms across chest. Then into the tunnel, where the invisible does its work, rattling like dice in a cup.

My veteran caregivers say my odds are good. That helps. I lost my father and my sister to cancer.

My body’s enthusiasm degrades daily. By Friday, I am a frail snail, no longer slick enough to leave a trail. 

My brain empties. It rewrites a line from the “Mary Poppins” movie: “I’m not as well turned out as I’d like. So, God, is there still time?”

This profound, be-still moment is too daunting for me. I need something I can grasp. I start by counting my blessings and, more importantly, those who are blessing me. Reassurance arrives, slow and steady, like from a drip feeder.

Sunday, my neighbor Dave Westerby fasted and prayed on my behalf. Monday, I got a “stay strong” email from my 94-year-old friend Gene Rose in Oakland. “Takes a lot to slow down a tough kid from Brooklyn,” wrote Denis Donovan on Facebook. “The love of your family is the best medicine,” added Betsy Clemings.

As if on cue, my schoolteacher daughter Erin arrives from California, injected with vaccine and high spirits. She staples together a paper garland of one-liners, fond recollections of me she’s gathered from family. They number 43, one for each day of my treatment.

Memories of milking cows and cheering the Yankees. Comforting grandson Bryan when a baby goat died. And then grandson Michael wrote: “I love your kindness challenge.”

I had encouraged Michael to do good deeds without being asked, things like – take the trash out, hold a door open. And then to ask himself every night: “What have I done today for which God would say, ‘Thank you’”?

So, if you have a memory attached to John Taylor, and it sparks a prayer rather than a cuss, then God love you and I promise to pray it forward.

I can’t put a pretty face on my cancer. But I can change my outlook. I’m giving myself a new mustache, courtesy of a chocolate ice cream cone.