I was at Hopkins last Friday. It was a business trip, but there I was, tripping over hundreds of images of visits with Leroy. There was just no way to escape it. It was our life for such a long time.
I try to soften the memories of the really tough days there. What I want to remember is Leroy looking at his doctors and saying, "Use me. Let's give it a shot." He had the courage to put himself in a place others were not as willing to go.
I guess he always knew the cancer would take his life. But if there was a chance that something he did would open up new kinds of treatment for others coming in that door after him, he was willing to try.
The flip side of that was true too. We would hear about treatments in early stages of development on our visits to the clinic. Promising attempts at killing cancer and prolonging life. Some of those procedures are being used now. They weren't quite ready for prime time when Leroy was a patient. Would they have given him more life? Maybe.
So, I find myself wondering, when the day comes and I hear that researchers have found the key to knocking out colon cancer, or discovering some new drug that devours cancer cells and makes the disease an annoyance instead of a death sentence, how will it feel?
If it means a world with less cancer, it can only be good. But I'll quietly thank Leroy and all the others who paid if forward. Without their sacrifice, it will never happen.