Saying Goodbye

We recently celebrated my daughters 18th birthday. Part of our celebration included going out to dinner with a large group of her friends. When the time for dessert rolled around, one of her friends passed because she had given up sweets for Lent. When asked about it, she said…

“If Jesus can die on the cross and suffer such pain, I can give up sweets for a few weeks.”

I’m not very religious, but her insightful comment quickly shifted my perspective on many things.

Earlier this same day, a friend who battled cancer for 7 years passed away. He was only 46.

GroupPicZoo(Our friend, Mark Zuzek, is pictured in the first row next to me. He is second from the left.)

When Mark was 39 he was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. At the time of diagnosis, Mark’s cancer had actually spread into his brain. The crazy part is Mark never smoked and was a pretty healthy guy. He exercised and did everything you would normally do to live a long life.

Mark’s father passed away at the age of 41 from a heart attack. So as a precaution Mark had annual physicals. He was at high risk for heart problems due to his family history. Mark had two young children and wanted to be there for them as they grew up. He was overly cautious with his health. It was at one of these checkups that they found the cancer.

If you don’t know, the statistics for stage four lung cancer are not good. More than half of the people with lung cancer die within one year of being diagnosed. Only around 17% live beyond five years. My mother passed away just 5 months after the same diagnosis.

Because of Mark’s age, he was able to have access to several experimental treatments. These treatments extended his life significantly.

At his funeral, my wife was talking to Mark’s mother-in law and shared my mother’s cancer story. Mark’s mother-in-law replied, “Her passing so quickly was a blessing.” She said this because they were with Mark and his family for his 7 year battle.

Her comment really made me think about the battle anyone with cancer faces. My mother fought the exact same battle.

The Cancer Battle

I have no clue what someone with cancer really deals with, but I have to think they deal with the following challenges:

Pain and discomfort – Someone with cancer is in a lot of pain. This pain impacts a great deal of what they do physically. My mother ended up with severe COPD and struggled for every breath. This pain is with them on a daily basis.

Mental anguish – Imagine waking up each morning knowing you have cancer and that you may not live very long. Cancer could potentially take over many of your daily experiences, as thoughts of what’s going to happen flow through your head. Can you beat it? What will you miss out on if you don’t? What will your family do? How sick will treatment make you? How are you going to pay for all of the medical expenses? Are you becoming a burden on your family?

Fear – Mark had numerous treatments. Many of these treatments included brain surgery. Could you image the fear he had to deal with before each treatment? He also had to deal with the pain of the treatment and the challenging recovery of each treatment.

Physical declines – Because of the treatments, you will not have the same physical capabilities. You probably won’t be able to do the same things you would normally be able to do. This also might include hair loss and other side effects from treatment.

Mark and anyone else fighting cancer are warriors. They really are.

I honestly can’t image the 24/7 battle cancer patients fight. And they fight this battle inside without showing the rest of us what they’re dealing with. They don’t want us to see how scared they really are. They don’t want us to see how much pain they’re actually in.

I started this post with the comment my daughter’s friend made about giving up sweets. “If Jesus can die on the cross and suffer such pain, I can give up sweets for a few weeks.” These words instantly brought me to Mark’s battle.

If Mark can fight stage four cancer for 7 years, I need to be able to handle ANY and EVERY challenge that comes my way. In fact, something you and I may consider a challenge isn’t anything compared to what people battling cancer face. Our challenges are nothing. They are so trivial that there is zero comparison.

Think about some of the things we “struggle” with…

– It’s hard to stick to my diet.
– It’s hard to lose weight.
– I don’t want to go workout today.
– My kid didn’t make the travel team/national team.
– I have a problem at work.
– I don’t have enough money.

Really?

No comparison.

If you have your health, you’re one very lucky person. Since Mark’s passing, I carry this in my wallet:

ZooYou can probably see the fold in the middle. I keep it loose in the middle of the wallet so I see it every time I open it. I carry this because I want to remember Mark. I also carry this because I want to remember the 7-year battle he fought. I want to keep things in the proper perspective. My problems are NOT problems. I want to try and remember to not take anything for granted. Thinking about Mark and other people battling cancer puts everything into perspective very quickly.

Back in 2009, I interviewed Mark about his thoughts on his diagnosis. I’ve included the recording of this interview below. I’ve done hundreds of interviews, but this was probably the hardest one. I can still hear my voice cracking a little in the recording. This interview was actually recorded just a few months before my mother was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer. Mark was very helpful and answered dozens of questions about her treatment.

Here’s the interview with Mark:

I also suggesting watching the documentary, "Be Here Now" on Netflix.

This documentary shows Andy Whitfield's battle with cancer. Andy was the lead actor in the TV show Spartacus and he documented his cancer journey. Really, watch it. It will show you what I'm trying to explain. You fight the battle with him. You can see the pain. You can see the emotions. You can see the sadness. It's 100% real.

Andy was actually one year younger than Mark. He had two beautiful children. He lost his battle in 2011.

There is tremendous sadness in watching this battle.

However, it's important for many reasons. Mainly, because it gives perspective on our own lives. It helps us see things more clearly.

It helps us remember what is really important in life.

NOTE: There have been some promising new treatments for cancer. I wish these treatments were available for Mark and for my mother. The good news this treatment is available now for anyone who is fighting this battle. Please check out this new treatment here: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2017/03/19/metabolically-supported-therapies-cancer-treatment.aspx

5 Comments

  • Ileane L. Griffin

    Reply Reply April 5, 2017

    Wow…very well said. And what a wonderful tribute to your friend a fellow Cancer Warrior. As a 10 year Survivor who’s battle continues I really appreciate your words…and echo them…

    Thank you for walking in our shoes. I’m so sorry for your loss

    • Robert Minton

      Reply Reply April 5, 2017

      Ileane thank you for your comment. I know I can’t come close to understanding what you’ve gone through, but my thoughts are with you. You’re a warrior and my hat is off to you and your family! Be sure to check out links at the end of the blog post. Some exciting progress in the cancer battle!

  • Carlos Samaniego

    Reply Reply April 5, 2017

    Rob, so sorry for your loss. Thank you for writing such a beautiful article.

  • Melinda Zuzek Worley

    Reply Reply March 19, 2017

    Bob
    I don’t think we have met but I’m Marks sister! Thank you for a beautiful article! You are so right we don’t know what those facing cancer are going through and the problems we face are pale in comparison! Thank you for honoring my brother with this article!
    God Bless You and your family!
    Melinda Zuzek Worley

    • Robert Minton

      Reply Reply March 21, 2017

      Melinda, you’re welcome. Mark will definitely be missed. Rob

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