I lost both of my parents to cancer. Both were in their 60s when they died two years apart, in 1982 and 1984.
I grew up in the Downriver area of Detroit — an area lined with steel mills and factories. In the 1950s, and even in the 1960s, those industries were still flourishing.
Two of my best friends from the same area also lost their parents at a relatively young age. I believe they were all smokers, but we surmised that the pollution from all of those smokestacks may also have contributed to their early deaths. We wondered if anyone had ever done a study of the correlation between cancer and the chemical spewed from those smokestacks into the Downriver area.
My parents only got to meet one of our three children.
My wife, Marilyn, lost her father a few years back to some form of dementia. His downfall was rapid. Maurice Land was full of life before he became ill.
Before we had siding put on our house, Maurice straddled our steeple-like roof to paint the upper portion of our house. He also climbed the roof to place meshing over the chimney to prevent critters from falling into it. He climbed a huge tree to put up a tree swing for our children. His courage and energy amazed me.
Yes, life can deal us horrible blows.
Now that I am a senior citizen, I do worry about my health since my parents were younger than me when they died. After all, I lived in the Downriver area for many years. Fortunately, I’ve never been a smoker, and so far I’ve had good health.
Two friends of mine, Tim Penning and Paul Bedient, have had to deal with difficult circumstances in the past year.
Paul lost his father, Blair Bedient, to pancreatic cancer on April 4; and his wife, Carol, has been diagnosed with cancer.
Penning’s wife, Cindy, is also battling cancer. He wrote a column for the Tribune in March 2012 about his wife telling him that she had been diagnosed with cancer.
Carol Bedient and I conducted business together when she worked for the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation and I was managing editor of the Tribune. I found her to be easy to work with and always very helpful. She is a kind and sincere woman.
Paul said his wife is “doing OK.”
Cindy is an avid jogger. I would often see her and Tim jogging together by our house. The other day, Cindy was out jogging alone when I spotted her and waved. She stopped and came over to chat. Cindy told me that jogging had become more difficult recently, but that she is determined to enter a race.
That race is the annual Riverbank Run in Grand Rapids on May 8. Two days later, Cindy is scheduled to undergo eight hours of surgery as part of her cancer treatment.
She remains upbeat. Tim said that Cindy spoke to the Western Michigan Christian High School track team recently and told them that "if she has to go through this, she hoped God will use her to inspire others."
The Pennings and Bedients are not alone in their difficult times. I know that many other people are struggling to cope with bad news.
There is no easy answer. We all must deal with bad news to the best of our abilities. It is important to remember how much those loved ones meant to us.
Yes, life is sometimes cruel. But there is also a silver lining in remembering all of the good times.