There are many reasons to read this luminous collection of essays about living with terminal cancer. The essays are insightful, revealing, literate, funny, but the primary reason is to reside for a moment in the presence of Dorothy Sauber, a woman of uncommon intelligence and sparkle…

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Today it is easy to imagine I am not dying. In fact, I feel so positively alive as to wonder why someone somewhere told me I have stage IV lung cancer. This morning, I went on my routine power walk, pulled weeds out of the side yard perennial beds, and made a list of tasks for the afternoon.

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Having cancer makes most people sick. Having terminal cancer drives some of us crazy. Suddenly everyone and everything look different. Or perhaps everything looks the same but, with the exit timer set on sooner rather than later, we start looking differently at who we are and how we spend our final days.

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Growing up on a small family farm meant having almost daily contact with disaster. At an early age I was introduced to birthing deaths, bloating deaths, infection, and disease. Cattle, horses, and pigs in my father’s pastures and pens lived the Russian roulette life of the farmyard.

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My friends are learning with me that rather than giving ourselves over to panic and fear, together we are able to celebrate life as we know it at this moment. I have always been keenly aware that we are dying as we live. What these cancer lunches are bringing home to me is just how alive we can still be while dying.

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For years I’ve visited libraries. I’ve sat in libraries, researched in libraries, looked up and down shelves of libraries, and studied patterns within libraries. In Lilongwe at the University of Malawi, I remember being struck by a disproportionably large presence of books about trees in Alaska.

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In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Evelyn Ellison Twitchell regards targeted cancer therapy drugs as one hot new place for investors to put their money. Because research has made possible “what was once a dream,” companies like GlaxoSmithKline and Onyx Pharmaceuticals stand to profit as “the total cancer-drug market is expected to nearly double to $70 billion…

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One of my earliest childhood memories is hiccupping as I was looking out the second story farmhouse bedroom window. My mother, thinking it best to scare the hiccups out of me, without warning pushed me against the windowpane and shouted, “Look, there’s a lion in the yard!” I don’t remember if the hiccups subsided or not, but I do remember seeing the lion.

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Perhaps cancer clinics should post the following message for new cancer patients to read as they exit:

Beyond this door exist innumerable scientifically unexplainable and unproven remedies and cures, for while only the few are called to be oncologists, many still believe in miracles.

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I learned at an early age to never, but never, visit someone empty handed. For every church funeral, new baby, and sick neighbor, my mother made an appearance at someone’s door carrying a home baked apple pie, fresh farm eggs, or a pint of summer strawberries from her front yard garden.

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