No greater challenge
“There is no greater challenge to statesmanship than to find a way that such sacrifices as this statue represents are not necessary in the future.”
— Richard M. Nixon, referring to the U. S. Marine Corps War Memorial
Anyone who has been through cancer treatment knows that war is a very good metaphor for the trauma inflicted in the name of achieving a higher goal. As with war, such treatments often leave us wondering whether the end could possibly justify the means. For those who survive, or are born to inherit the positive outcomes of such sacrifice, the answer may seem more obvious than it does for those who suffer and die.
The War Memorial pictured above is an iconic reminder of a battle that encompassed many common threads with the war waged within the body of a stage IV cancer survivor. Not everyone realizes the assault on the island of Iwo Jima actually began nine months before the famed amphibious landing, with bombardments intended to lessen the carnage that would take place in confronting an enemy that had vowed to fight to the death. Even with such extensive preparation, the bloodshed was just beginning. Marines who feared the eerie silence that greeted them might indicate their enemy was only hiding, not defeated, would soon find out their fears were more than justified.
Likewise, the insidious dangers of metastatic cancer infiltrate the body, resisting the aggressive bombardment of chemotherapy, radiation and surgical resection. Doctors and patients fight on, amid predictions of doom and endless second-guessing, using the only tools at hand to destroy an ever-elusive threat. For those who choose to fight on and not give up, no small part of the rationale surely lies in the greater challenge identified by President Nixon: the hope that these relentless and tenacious battles may ultimately render such sacrifices unnecessary for future generations. For 21st century medicine, there is no greater challenge.
One year ago today: