December 26, 2007

Dr. Brown is Black

Most that know me know that my father has lymphoma. At 85, this may seem to most to just be an indication of his time to go. He has lived a good long life - longer than most. But there is still the fighter in him. An ex-marine and veteran of WWII and Korea, he doesn't seem to be able to just say "die." But lymphoma is a terrible adversary. I have had many friends, associates and family members succumb to various types of cancer. So going into this we hit the well worn roller-coaster tracks of the diagnosis /prognosis and outlook/outcome with more bad days than good.

All the while we kept hearing about a certain oncologist named Dr. Brown. Dr. Brown has been willing to respect the wishes of the family and Dad, which were initially to let the disease simply run its course. But, one evening when it seemed that the end had come, Dad decided not to go. He was rushed to the hospital in Ft. Collins and Dr. Brown came back into the picture. Once the doctor learned that Dad wanted one more fighting chance, the gauntlet was thrown with the declaration "I am not going to lose this one." Massive chemo was administered and life support functions were provided for three weeks of intensive care.
I came into this halfway through and met Dr. Brown early one morning in the oncology ward of the Poudre Valley Hospital. I was a little taken aback. Dr. Regina Brown is black. She has been the only beacon of hope for our family through this ordeal. I noticed the light in Dad's eyes as she entered the room - a spark of hope. As Dr. Brown explained the whole deal - the costs, the benefits, the ordeals and the treatments to follow, she was a pillar of optimism - a fighter by nature and one who has confronted adversity and has overcome it at every step of her life. She brought not only the healer's art but the victor's skill to bear in our family - the ability to look death in the eye and say - "not yet - not now." And then have the ability to act and to do something about it. I told Dad, that in Dr. Brown, he had met his match. Her eye twinkled a bit as she nodded. She can recognize that old fighting spirit that just will not give up until the last gasp of mortal breath.

And so we move forward. Dad is back home, is functional and is able to walk, eat and drive. He will undergo at least two more treatments. There are some lessons to be drawn from this. The first one is that the will to live and the human spirit to overcome cannot be taken lightly. Some have more of this than others - maybe Dad is on the extreme - but in his most weakened state, I looked into his eyes and saw the fight that was not yet willing to be extinguished. The second lesson comes from Dr. Brown, the black woman oncologist who has had to overcome societal bigotry and discrimination to beat the odds of failure that were stacked against her from birth to become such an inspiration to our family in overcoming adversity. It seems like it all just comes second nature to Dr. Brown. She has been such a beacon of hope when there was very little. If our society can produce someone like Dr. Brown, maybe there is hope for the rest of us.

That old fighting spirit and the will to live are priceless commodities. We know that at some point there comes an end for us all - but until then, life is worth living and worth fighting for. Thank you Dr. Brown. There are now two people I consider my heroes. I think the following poem applies in this case.

Broken Things to Mend
by Paul Kern

Broken things to mend,
Are easy to be found,
At my place beyond the bend,
They're scattered all around.

Broken things to mend,
My hay rake, fence and gate,
Some things need me to attend,
While other things can wait.

Broken things to mend,
Are folks tore clean apart,
Who so easy break and bend.
With human soul and heart.

With saving soul and heart,
One was born to be our friend,
Teaching us the healer's art,
Broken things to mend.

Sun don't shine the same on all,
So take time to lift a friend,
A pard' who's ridin' for a fall,
Broken things to mend.

Most everything can wait,
For that helpin' hand you'll lend,
Go on now - 'fore it's too late,
Broken things to mend.

One thing matters most they say,
That will last until the end,
Christ was born on Christmas day,
Broken things to mend.

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