From The Telegraph April 22, 1987I wondered for so many years if I would ever see current research that discussed a possible cure for the kind of liver cancer my very dear father died of in 1992. Finally, on Sunday, I found an article in the San Francisco Chronicle that reported a new treatment for Primary Liver Cancer using small pox vaccine. It's a sad and interesting story that my father contracted Hepatitis from a tainted yellow fever vaccine administered to soldiers in preparation for being shipped overseas in 1941 for the war. In 1990, he was diagnosed with Primary Liver Cancer.
Liver cancer is not common in the United States, although rates of the disease have been climbing about 3.5 percent every year in the past decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 29,000 cases of liver cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year and more than 20,000 people die.
But worldwide, it's the most common cause of cancer death, mostly because the primary cause of liver cancer is hepatitis B or C, both of which are widespread in parts of Asia and Africa. More than 700,000 people worldwide are diagnosed with liver cancer each year, and 600,000 people die, according to the American Cancer Society.Who would have ever thought that fifty years after the tainted vaccine, he would die of liver cancer? I remember being told that he still had hepatitis cells present in his liver in 1991. Does that mean it was chronic? I have no way of knowing. Still it's a little heartbreaking to think his death may have been a result of a long-ago error. Had he not contracted Hep B, would he still be here turning 94 on his next birthday on December 19th? Who knows?
Thinking about my father getting to be a very old man, and not dying at 73, reminded me of a very sad trend we've noticed lately. Many of our friends are losing their parents, one by one. Just in the past few months five friends have bid a farewell to a much-loved mother or father. That news makes me cherish every conversation and laugh I still get to have with my mother, everyday. And yet it occurs to Roger and me that we are inevitably becoming the elders, and it is a rather sobering and unsettling thought. Roger at 70 is now the oldest member of his family. It seems inconceivable that such a thing is true, but it is. We are the new old guard, keepers of the stories, ad-hoc teachers of what ever experiential wisdom we have gleaned over the years. Sauna builder, bread-baker, gardener, and picture-taker. Handy-man, philosopher, hiker, and dreamers. As old as we get to be, we still plan on singing, laughing and dancing into the twilight of our lives.
PS-- The iridescent clouds have been stunning lately. Click on the above pic, it gives you a big-sky context for the colors.