Cancer. The very word is the harbinger of death. The diagnosis the disruption of life and lives; the entry of anxiety and fear into our everyday routines.

Not quite a decade ago I held my wife’s hand as she learned it was inside her body (I give thanks daily for her recovery and the fact that we are still together).

In the last few weeks I have spoken at the funerals of three dear friends who battled the dread disease. I ended last year with the honor of speaking at another’s.

It has been defined medically as a “malignant growth that spreads locally by invasion and systematically by metastasis.” Though no longer the automatic death sentence of mere decades ago, it remains more curable than treatable.

Its pronouncement is often the prelude to the construction and execution of “bucket lists” and is generally a life-changing event for all involved.

Growing up, we heard of a few people with “a cancer.”  Now, we are hard put to think of a family NOT visited by this awful intruder. Though reasons might well include better diagnostic abilities, the recent article by Andrew Sheeley of The Salem News — “In The Ozarks, State Parks Trump Public Health” sheds some interesting and disturbing light on the issue.

Both of our increased chances in some of our local counties as well as our state government’s obvious disdain for the health of many rural residents. We can only hope the latter is changing.

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