Opinion: In 2020, remember what a real life-or-death fight looks like

Bill McMillan
In this January 2019 image made from video provided by Penn Medicine, IV bags of CRISPR-edited T cells are prepared for administering to a patient at the Abramson Cancer Center in Philadelphia.

I spent Christmas Eve in a cancer center.

It was the most humbling experience of my life.

My friend received the bad news that he had prostate cancer. He asked me to go with him as he had his first consultation. He had just lost his wife after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s last summer.

Now this.

My wife and I married in the same month, same year.

As we checked in at 8 a.m. a parade of quiet people passed us. They were headed for radiation treatment. Not a fun way to start Christmas, but a critical one.

The doctor at Port Huron’s Karmanos Cancer Institute and the entire staff were upbeat. An air of hope permeated a place where hope, prayer and straight talk rule.

There is a bond there. Husbands waiting for wives, wives waiting for husbands. The treatments don’t take long. But my friend found out that he must visit five days a week for six weeks to knock this thing out.

He was firm. Let’s go for it. Let’s beat this.

That is the resolve of all the patients. One woman said the cancer had come back to her husband after three years. You could see the fear in her eyes. Cancer is cruel. It has taken several of my loved ones. How many of us said a prayer or shed a tear for them this holiday season?

I scrolled through my phone as my friend went in for a CAT scan. The usual political stories — even on this sacred day.

The new year is coming — 2020 — probably the most divisive year in our history as we dread another brutal presidential election. Family and friends are torn apart, taking the raging and irrational war to social media.

As a new year begins, so does the baiting. Good tidings and good cheer last about as long as it takes for the stores to reopen after Christmas.

The day at the cancer center changed all that for me and put it in perspective.

While we are fighting each other, the wounded souls there are fighting, too.

For their very lives.

Bill McMillan is a retired Detroit News editor who teaches journalism at Wayne State and UM Dearborn.