The Poignant Truth About Fighting Cancer


This photo of the wreck of the RMS Britannic is a graphical representation of how you feel emotionally within ten seconds of a doctor informing you that you have cancer.

“Living with cancer is no battle — you show up and hope you don’t die is the battle.” Nora Purmort. 

I read this passage a few minutes ago in an article in the Washington Post and it stopped me in my tracks. It is a comment made in an interview by a woman whose husband died of cancer last week on the 25th of November at the age of thirty-five.

What makes this story so poignant is the two of them wrote his obituary together, before he died. And they made it both funny and sad. His name was Aaron Purmort. Her name is Nora Purmort.

From Washington Post of 12.1.14:

This cancer patient wrote his own obituary. ‘Civilians will recognize him best as Spider-Man,’ it reads.


The words by his wife which begin this post, are so true as to be painful.  Anyone who has been through cancer treatment and come out it alive; or is currently suffering from cancer and being treated; or who has lost a loved one to cancer will feel these words like a sharp razor on their emotions.

God knows, as a cancer survivor, I did.This insidious disease touches all of us most of our adult lives. A loved one is fighting it, or dies of it. A dear friend passes away from cancer. Famous people we never knew die of cancer.

Once sensitized to it, cancer seems everywhere. Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorganChase, one of the most powerful bankers in the world has cancer–now under control. Rich or poor, cancer knows no boundary.

A handful of people are among the lucky few who survive some of the most virulent forms of cancer. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for instance, survived one of the most virulent and deadly cancers: pancreatic cancer. That same cancer killed Steve Jobs.

My older brother died of melanoma 14 months ago. He conducted himself throughout his ordeal with quite valour, manly dignity and the peace given him by his strong Christian faith.

I survived cancer five years ago but I had a highly controllable form of cancer–diffuse large B cell lymphoma for which a miracle drug was invented in the 1990s. It was a miracle. Why did he die and not me? I don’t know.

Given the number of people who die from cancer, couldn’t all politicians agree that funding for cancer research should go up? A lot. A hundred billion dollars a year, perhaps. Two hundred billion dollars? Even if it means raising taxes. I don’t understand why we don’t this.

Richard Nixon, a Republican, established the National Cancer Institute in 1968 (where I was successfully treated in a clinical trial) and declared a war on cancer. It is a war we are still losing.




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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: