Meaning Making with Malignancy: A Theologically Trained Sociologist Reflects on Living Meaningfully with Cancer

The day after Thanksgiving of 2016, the author was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. He has undergone various forms of treatment, including therapies at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota where he began a routine of sending updates and essays to friends and family every two weeks. In the first paragraph or two of each essay, he reported on his medical situation, grounding the essays in real time and in an ambiguous but life-affirming struggle. This was followed with an essay on meaning-making—how he was trying to make sense of the experience and what helped him cope. In some of these, he focuses on advice to people who have a chronically ill friend; an example is the essay, “Awkward! What to Say (or Not Say) to Friends with a Life-threatening Disease.” On other occasions, he reflects on the experience of having a life-threatening disease and addresses others in that situation with essays like “Planning for the Future When ‘Planning the Future' Feels like an Oxymoron.” The reflections are sometimes informed by philosophical or theological analyses but more often by a sociological lens. The result is a musing of remarkable depth.

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--Keith A. Roberts

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