When you suddenly learn you might have only 18 months to live, it’s a good time to sort out what really matters in life. Yang Chen, MD dismissed an aching pain under his shoulder as muscle strain. Five weeks later, as the pain persisted, a chest x-ray brought shocking results: possible lung cancer that might have spread.
A highly acclaimed specialist and medical professor at the University of Colorado Denver, Yang knew the average survival rate for his condition could be under 18 months. He didn’t smoke and had no family history of cancer. He was stunned. His life changed in an instant.
“I wondered how I would break the news to my unsuspecting wife and three young children,” he recalls. “Who would take care of my family if I died?”
Swirling Vortex of Uncertainty
When I heard his story, I felt a jab of recognition. In 1996, my doctor said I might have cancer. That word sent me into a swirling vortex of uncertainty. But I was fortunate; within a month, I learned my condition was benign.
Yang did not get such good news. He now knows he has an inoperable tumor. He’s undergoing chemotherapy. It’s uncertain whether radiation will help. Yet through it all, he seems remarkably calm and positive. At a time when one might understandably focus on oneself, he’s even assisting other cancer patients and their families to cope with their own challenges. What’s his secret?
I learned about Yang’s personal inner resources when we first met in the 1980s. He worked at the Mayo Clinic and brought me to Rochester, Minnesota, to present a seminar for Mayo and IBM professionals on a less ponderous theme, “Love, Sex and the Single Lifestyle.” With the audience, we laughed and explored relationship mysteries. He felt it was essential that people consider the spiritual aspect of relationships, as well as the psychological and physical.
Later he founded a global network to train medical professionals how to interact with patients on spiritual matters. Many seriously ill patients want their doctors to discuss spiritual needs and the profession is taking note.
Aloys Evina is the chief editor for the editorial sections of both the French and English versions of the Continental News websites. He is Executive Director and Chief Editor with Le Journal Chretien, which is the largest electronic distributor of French Speaking Christian news and information worldwide.