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Excerpted from Cancer as a Turning Point by Lawrence LeShan. Copyright 1994 by Lawrence LeShan. Excerpted by permission of Plume, a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"In order to help this happen, there needed to be some major changes in her and their lifestyles."

Lawrence LeShan, Cancer as a Turning Point, Part 4

She had, she told them, been an oncologist long enough to know that with a cancer like hers, this was the only chance. In order to help this happen, there needed to be some major changes in her and their lifestyles.

First, she said, her husband: quite a number of successful poets had supported themselves by working at regular jobs. If he wanted to follow the example of his particular idol, Edwin Arlington Robinson, and work as a ticket seller in the Underground, this was fine with her, but she felt he would do better as a draftsman or something like that even though he'd been away from engineering for eight years. Then, the children: they were going to leave the special private schools they had been going to and go to regular public schools. They could continue some of their private acting lessons, but would also have to get part-time jobs if this were at all possible, and even if it weren't! Certainly they could work as salesgirls, waitresses, or whatever during summer and Christmas vacations unless they had professional employment. The maid would go and all of them would pitch in with the housework. She herself was going to give up her job, take a residency in pediatrics in order to catch up with the latest techniques, and then take it from there. Moving back to Brazil when the twins were established an on their own was left as a possibility for the future.

It must have been quite a family meeting. By the end of it everyone had agreed to the new agenda and, Maria told me, "with a lot less upset and resistance than I expected. I found that they cared for me, loved me, even if I couldn't support them anymore. I'm surprised to find out that this surprised me!"

In the next six months her husband obtained a fairly low-level job in an engineering firm. He said it demanded little of him and left him with a good deal of energy for his poetry. ... The daughters did get part-time jobs and expressed a good deal of resentment about having to do so. They complained in typically adolescent fashion and constantly had to be reminded about their household chores. Both paid for their acting lessons and also obtained a number of small jobs making television commercials and in obscure, avant-garde theaters. Maria resigned from her oncology position and took a residency in pediatrics. After a year she began working full time in this field. She was paid far less than she had earned in oncology, but enjoyed it far more...

I kept in touch with her. The chemotherapy program worked far beyond expectations. The tumor masses shrank but did not disappear. At present, four years later, the medical situation seems at least temporarily stabilized and is on a watch-and-wait basis. She feels that her life is rich and exciting.

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