In the Shadow of Death

David YeagleyBad Eagle – by David Yeagley

See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand. Deuteronomy 32: 39

This past spring (2013) I was diagnosed as having “low-grade, extra-nodal lymphoma.” In July, I was also diagnosed with mesothelioma. Two kinds of cancer, in the lungs. I had lung surgery on my left lung in July. I am presently on chemotherapy.  

Most of my friends know that I have had cancer all my life, since I was eleven years old. In earlier childhood, I nearly died with a severe sinus infection. Not atypically, Hodgkin’s Disease (which used to be called the athlete’s disease) follows such a sinus infection. I had a huge tumor removed from my chest. It had begun attaching itself to my heart.

Those were the days (in the ’60′s) before chemotherapy. The only treatment was violent, essentially uncontrolled radiation on my chest, back, and under my right arm. Many weeks of radiation. For nearly three years after that, if I walked to quickly, my nose would bleed. This radiation left permanent and perpetual damage.

I had many biopsies after that, under both arms, in the lower neck area, both left and right sides. All were benign.

Then, in 1976 (while at Yale), I developed Sjøgren’s Syndrome, in the final, lethal stages. It developed into a lymphoma on my right lung. After my second major thoracic surgery (removing part of the lung), I was given my first chemotherapy: six months of CVP, or cytoxan, vincristine, and prednisone. (Actually, it was the first case of Sjøgren’s Syndrome in a Hodgkin’s patient. There is an article in the Archives of Internal Medicine about it.) Lost my hair, etc. Yet, not too miserable. I was young and strong.

In 1991, while still living in Connecticut, I came down with Hodgkin’s disease again, and was treated at Yale. This time, however, I was given British MOPP, or mustine, Oncovin, procarbazine, prednisolone. No surgury, but only the chemotherapy. My white count plummeted to nothing, and I was in the emergency room, then in the hospital for a week. “No soliders,” an Iranian doctor said. “Send in the angels,” said I.

This was another sixth month regiment. Only this time I actually played soccer during the treatment. It was winter, and I played indoor. No, I wasn’t very good, because I had no dependable feeling in my feet or hands. I fell over my own feet sometimes. The Italians just looked down and shook their heads. But, they appreciate my effort (or so I have always supposed). I was also cantor at St. Paul’s in Glastonbury. It was an emotional roller coaster, certainly. Way up, then way down. I remember standing, singing (in Latin), and sweating bullets one Sunday. The Elder, Martin Jacques, was worried. I remember he blessed me with holy water one time, knowing I wasn’t even Catholic. (I was hired because I could sight-sing anything.)

When that treatment was done, I was headed for Tucson, to do a doctorate in music at the University of Arizona. My father died in 1992, two weeks after I matriculated. There, in Tucson, I naturally developed skin cancer, and had a major surgical slash under my right eye, across the entire upper cheek bone. I was still reeling from the British MOPP, emotionally, and never did get a good night’s sleep in the Tucson Valley.

And so I finally returned to Oklahoma City (with five degrees). My older brother, Frederick, died before my eyes in 2000, and my mother, in 2005.

Then, in August of 2008, I was afflicted with auto-immune hemolytic anemia. I was in the emergency room, and that very night I came within about a half hour of Death. My blood had almost entirely died already. No transfusion was found that my blood would accept. (I had told the doctors that the Comanches were loose! They were killing every foreign blood in sight!) A lady doctor informed me that I needed to make a decision about life-support. I said no. She said, gently, with a smile, “If you blood is dead, it wouldn’t work anyway.”

I was in the hospital nearly a week, recovering. They did finally procure a transfusion that worked. (I did have the presence of mind to refuse insulin, which I regarded as an attempt to make me a diabetic!)

I played soccer again. (This was just two summers ago.) At the peak level, I played with the hordes of illegals (from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, Panama, etc.). We played three nights a week, until dark. It was a macho thing, like who could last the longest. Yes, even as an old man, I kept up with all but a hand full of very fast ones. I had the coordination, the speed, though not quite the same skills. Anyway, I was in what I considered good health.

Then, everything started falling apart. A blackout at the wheel (doing 70 on I-44), dizzy spells, low blood pressure, and a host of other abnormalities. (I think I just wore myself out with the soccer bit–an old man keeping pace with young men less than half his age. Ah, but it was glorious!)

And now, I have a most ill-fated prognosis in 2013. I have no bone marrow. My blood has no fight in it. If I were to refuse chemotherapy, I was told I had about three months to live.

Well, the first regiment of CVP nearly killed me within three weeks. My left lung filled with fluid three times in just four days, and 1.5 liter of red fluid was drained off. That’s when mesothelioma was discovered. The effect of childhood radiation, unfortunately. They cannot treat both the lymphoma and mesothelioma at the same time, so they decided to hit the more aggressive cancer, the mesothelioma. I am now on my second type of chemotherapy, starting with only one drug, Alimpta.

I’ve lost 25 pounds, lost my hair, lost a major front tooth, and look very much like a Holocaust victim. Of all the illness and medications of the past, this present condition is the worst of all. I have never been so sickly in my entire life. But, I’m old. My body is worn out. I have lived by radiation and poison all my life. It has finally taken it’s toll.

But, before I sound too morose, let me say that, before I entered this last valley, I prayed to the Almighty, Who alone holds the power of Life and Death. I knew I would never make it through that damned vale alone. I asked for help. Like King Hezekiah (II Kings 20: 8,9), I even asked for a sign, a miraculous sign that He would sustain me, and turn everything around–in this life. Now.

I was given that very sign I asked for, the very next day.

Yet, I confess, in the absolute misery of it all, I have not accessed the strength of the miraculous promise. I have rather sunk deeply in darkness. The uncertainty, and all the negative signs in the body, the chemistry, the medical assessments, the physical misery, these things can bring a man down, especially when the poisonous medicine is killing him itself.

I thought, Comanches are supposed to die in battle, quickly. None of this protracted torture. I’ll just drive down to Medicine Bluff and jump. I’ll end this myself. I will not die of poison, but of my own will, quickly.

Yes, I’ve also thought of assisted suicide.

This is how low the thoughts can sink, in the midst of acute suffering.

You even forget the very promise of your God–made to you personally, miraculously, in your face! This, in itself, is the supreme denigration. And there is no will, no strength, and no faith in me.

When I arrive on the other side of this, it will have nothing to do with me, my determination, my faith, or any such self-accreditation. I will not be congratulated. I had nothing to do with it. It will be by the absolute mercy of my God. I will have conquered nothing. I have never said, nor will I ever say, “I beat cancer.” I can’t even overcome myself. Will power has nothing to do with it.

And so I have lived in the shadow of Death all of my life. The stench of his hideous, putrid breath has hunted and haunted me forever. My close companion he has been. I will post more on all this. For now, I wanted simply to inform my readers.

Until now, I have told very few people, just family and very close friends. Well, who wants to tell such news to anyone, especially to people he loves? It is a terrible burden on them, an awful thing to say, “I have cancer, with little or no hope.” How completely inconsiderate! This is not something a man is anxious to tell the ones he loves–at least not too quickly. But, time is up now. I have to face the reality, and part of that is making a public announcement, since I have been willing to say all manner of other wild and wooly things publicly.

So, leaning on the everlasting arms, I shall continue to blow what little wind I have into the wings of I certainly appreciate all the support I have been shown over the years. It has been a most rich and robust raid! We have all gathered much goods!

Finally, I want to say, again, if I live, it is by the mercy of God, not by my will, nor by my faith, for I have neither. In the last words of King David, in his public prayer for his son Solomon (I Chronicles 29:11):

Thine, O LORD is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all.

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3 thoughts on “In the Shadow of Death

  1. Sounds like you have really been through the ringer… I will pray for you. Have you tried any alternative treatments? Have you tried cannabis oil? What about DMSO? I also read that making your bodies PH more alkaline helps a lot… Eat a lot of greens, take apricot kernels with curcumin and the other treatments I mentioned and keep the bodies PH level more alkaline… I hope some of it helps, I hope you keep in touch with your progress… God bless you and us all…

  2. Yes brother Bad Eagle. I have also have had to deal with issues like you have – cancer, rhumatic fever, MRSA, and addictions and alcohol. We are now at this awarenes awakening and such, but we were all created as spiritual being, and I truely believe that bro. . We will all hopefully meet again when we jump because we are all honest.

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