How My Brother’s Cancer Got Whacked Clean Out of His Body
This is a re-run of a piece I posted a little over 3 years ago about my brother, Michael Krepon’s, successful mano-a-mano battle with cancer. The occasion is the publishing of his newly reworked e-book, now available for download to iBooks on Mac's or iPads, and with iTunes. It's called, Life Lessons: Recovering from Chemo & Serious Illness.
This means the events described below happened over 6 years ago, which is hard to believe. And he’s still fine, by the way.
A few years ago my brother, Michael Krepon, an expert on arms control and international affairs - especially Pakistan - had a life threatening health crisis. He was giving a speech in Rome when he coughed pretty hard, and even though he didn’t know it at the time, something popped through his sternum, breaking it in two, putting a nasty bump right smack in the center of his chest.
But my brother, being no sissy, proceeded on to India where he finished up his talks and meetings, and then came on home. Meanwhile, the bump was getting bigger and bigger, like something out of Alien.
After a few weeks of the usual misdiagnoses, symptomatic of the extremely un-holistic, un-patient-centered care we all receive, (Hmmm… a bump? Let’s get you to a bump-ologist!!) he was finally diagnosed with Large B-Cell Lymphoma, Stage Four.
By now, a matter of weeks, the thing had gone from being the size of a golf ball to an orange. It’s aggressive. And it’s no longer just one bump; they’re all over him.
Luckily, he got treated at UVA Medical Center, where they whacked the heck out of him with a chemo cocktail that was even more aggressive than his disease - a four-day whacking extravaganza, every three weeks, for 5 or 6 months (R-CHOP plus etoposide for those of you who like to know these things). Turns out these super-aggressive cancers are easier to send packing than the slow ones. It’s the fastest growing cells that drop first. So the last cells standing end up being the healthy ones. So, yeah, chemo may be clumsy and hard on the body, but sometimes it’s the best we’ve got and it gets the job done.
Meanwhile, all kinds of stuff is going down in Pakistan (this is 2007-8), so he’s on the usual round of news shows, only instead of my handsome bro on the screen, there’s this bald, gray-faced, gaunt, sweaty dude - opining on the Lehrer News Hour. He looks like Hell, but he’s still making sense. (His wife joked that he might be the only Talking Head who gave brainy phone interviews from a hospital room with 4 lines of poison seeping into his veins). Like I said, Brosky is no sissy.
He got some great help from the knowledgeable, generous, kind-hearted, angel-man-researcher-cancer-guide, Henry Dreher, as to what supplements to take to protect his GI tract, immune system and blood system. (Henry worked for years with Keith Block MD and helped him write his important, strategic, cancer-fighting book, Life over Cancer.)
It goes without saying he got buckets o’ guided imagery and meditation recordings from me - Emmett Miller’s and mine, mostly - which he was too well mannered to refuse. He visited an excellent acupuncturist too.
Long story short: my brother is fine now. And he’s handsome again, too. He’s back to writing books, teaching, blogging, testifying on The Hill and opining on radio and TV.
And being a reflective sort, he set down his thoughts in a slim but cogent little book about the lessons his cancer and chemo-whacking taught him. It’s inspiring and useful, and it gets you thinking your own deep thoughts.
His talented, movie-making son-in-law, Kenny Meehan, recently revamped it for digital delivery, producing a smashingly beautiful, illustrated e-book. So now, for the price of a get well card ($2.99), you can get (or give) one helluva gift to someone baffled by a diagnosis of cancer.
Full disclosure: yeah, the guy is my brother. But this is a wonderful book.
Don’t take my word for it. Here’s a sample:
If this question is asked in search of pity or sympathy, it will not help you heal.
If, instead, this question helps to identify unhealthy practices, you can speed the positive effects of your medical treatments. Your illness affects your person in the most intimate ways, but at the same time, it is quite impersonal. Your illness doesn’t care about you, or the next person it strikes. Take your recovery, not the illness, personally.