The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Chemo-colored glasses

I'm seeing the world differently since I got cancer

EDITOR'S NOTE: Hoffman died June 2, 2004.

I don't know if you've noticed or not, but in the past few months people seem to be more gentle, understanding, patient, compassionate, generous and giving.

That change in behavior, coincidentally, corresponds with my diagnosis with stage-four gallbladder cancer.

Ever since my wife, Susan, and I got the bad news, we seem to be on the receiving end of an abundance of "good news" from family, friends, acquaintances, church members, and, here is the oddest one of all — strangers. Even people who aren't aware of my condition seem to have an innate sense of my future and my tenuous hold on this world and respond in a respectful, if not deferential, manner.

Handshakes are heartier, hugs are more sincere, smiles are more genuine and expressions of concern are more profound. It seems an endless supply of people want to help us.

What do these people do that is so warm and loving? Quite simply, to a person, they express a genuine interest in my well-being. They strive to keep me comfortable. They give me rides, prepare meals, send cards, donate money, run errands or just drop by for a visit.

It almost seems that helping Mark and Susan has become a competitive sport, with friends practically begging for the privilege of being of assistance. You know: "If there is anything I can do, please give me a call.

My dilemma is this: Did my cancer really bring out the best in people? Or was the best always there — and it took cancer to color and change my perspective so I saw people in a different light? Chemo-colored glasses, if you will.

And now that God has blessed me with cancer, I'm afforded the opportunity not only to see the best in people, but also, perhaps, to bring it out. I can only pray that it lasts long after I'm called home. I have a feeling it will.


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February issue


Embracing diversity