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How My Brother’s Cancer Got Whacked Clean Out of His Body

06 Feb


About 3 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 not just one bump; they’re all over the place.

Luckily, he got treated at UVA, where they whacked the heck out 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.
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 a lot of 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.  (Dear Henry, where are you now?? You took down your web page and went away!!  Come back to us!!)  It goes without saying he got buckets o’ guided imagery 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:  I’m very happy to report that 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 the Lehrer News Hour.

And being a reflective sort, he set down his thoughts in a slim but cogent little book about the lessons his cancer and whacking taught him.  It’s inspiring and thoughtful, and it gets you thinking your own deep thoughts.  I recently re-read it and thought, damn, this is good!  I should share this!   

So that’s what I’m doing.  Click here for Recovering from Chemo and Serious Illness: Life Lessons by Michael Krepon.  Just to give you some flavor, the first page reads like this:

Why me?

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.

“Continuous effort - not strength or intelligence - is the key to unlocking our potential.”
- Winston Churchill


Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award