Article Overview:   In 1996, on Martin Luther King Day, I was diagnosed with colon cancer.    Ironically, three years later, my wife underwent breast cancer surgery on Martin Luther King Day.    What is the message in these two events?    What did we learn from Martin Luther King that has helped us become Sentinels of Vigilance, and can help anyone free themselves from the bonds of the Beast of Terror?


Monday, January 19, 2004—Ground Zero Plus 859
Martin Luther King Day Is The Beast of Cancer Day For Us

Cliff McKenzie

GROUND ZER0, New York, N.Y.--Jan. 19, 2004 --  While millions celebrate Martin Luther King Day (MLKD) as a symbol of freedom from a long history of prejudice and bigotry, my wife and I are forced to see it as the Day of the Beast of Cancer.

On Martin Luther King Day, 1996, I met the Beast of Cancer

     In 1996, on MLKD, I collapsed climbing my stairs at my then home in Laguna Niguel, California.   My body was so weak I was unable to lift one foot after the other.    My wife rushed me to our family doctor who had been treating me for anemia.   Unfortunately, my doctor had missed the most obvious problem for my pallor--I was bleeding internally.
     I was rushed to the hospital and pumped with blood, then wheeled down to have my colon inspected.   A huge cancerous growth had ruptured and I was put on the surgery schedule.
     Nobody wants to think they have cancer even when they have it.   I entered the hospital early in the morning and was in a daze as my body went through the diagnostic process.    Groggy, I noticed my wife sitting at the edge of my hospital bed crying.   I pushed myself up on one elbow and asked her why she was so upset.
     In my mind, I had a peptic ulcer or something.   I had not heard, or deflected, or simply ignored the "C"-word being whispered about me over the past hours where nurses and doctors probed and pricked me with their tools of medical Vigilance, seeking to affirm the exact nature of my problem.
     "You've got cancer, Cliff," my wife sobbed.
     "No," I retorted.   "I've got a peptic ulcer or something."
     "No," she said wiping a tear, "it's colon cancer."

I hadn't heard the "C-word" during the diagnostic procedures or surgery

      I lay in the bed frozen, mummified.   Cancer?  It couldn't be.   Not me.  I'd survived 100 combat operations in Vietnam, and thought I was a healthy, vibrant person.   There was no history of cancer in my family.  How could I be singled out of the morass of humanity to be victimized by the great, Terroristic Beast of Cancer?
      "They have to operate, just as soon as you have enough blood."
      I looked up at the plastic sack dripping blood into my arm.   It was the fourth  pint I was receiving.    I wondered whose blood was flowing in my veins.    I wondered why the Beast of Cancer had snuck up on me, attacked when I least expected, and, especially why the Beast picked Martin Luther King Day.
      Was it because I was a conservative Republican, a resident of Orange County, California?   Was I being singled out for any prejudice or bigotry I might have expressed over my life?   Had I violated some trust with the universe?   Had I besmirched the world of karma and whatever "sins" I had committed were now racing back at me like a mad locomotive heading toward my body tied to the railroad tracks?

I was trapped similar to the times I'd been pinned down in Vietnam

      I was trapped.   I'd been pinned down a number of times in Vietnam, with bullets snapping and cracking past my ears like thunderbolts.  I'd felt the heat of them and watched the earth explode around me as the lead chewed closer and closer, threatening to end my life or mortally wound me.
      In those cases there is no time for Fear.    The body automatically engages Shields of Vigilance and banishes Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.   Every muscle coils and you return fire, shout orders, grit your teeth and attack with abandon.   
      But strapped in a hospital bed with tubes feeding you blood and oxygen shoved up your nostrils, all you feel is Fear.   The Beast of Terror holds your bedpan.  He grins and hisses and hovers over you, tickling your imagination with horror thoughts that render you helpless.
      I have to admit that of all the moments in my life, the most frightened I've ever been was just prior to surgery.   All the Beast of Terror's power seemed to descend upon me as I lay on the gurney, waiting for the nurse to wheel me down to the operating room.   Would they be able to cut it out?   Would I awaken from the operation or die on the table?   Would I live a life of constant Terror that the cancer would return?  

I believed I had offended Martin Luther King - I asked him for some of the same courage he had mustered

       Oh, Martin Luther King, what I have done to offend thee? I thought.   
      It was a moment with my maker.   I remember lying there in the hallway.  The nurses were busy with other patients as I awaited my turn in the operating room.   I tried with all my power to shed the Fear, Intimidation and Complacency (helplessness) that smothered my thoughts.   I must be brave, I thought.  I must be strong.    Tears slid down the corners of my eyes as I thought of never seeing my wife or children again.  Then I sucked in a deep breath.   
      I thought of Martin Luther King.   I asked him to help me have courage, the same courage he must have mustered on his marches into the jaws of death.   He must have known there was big target on his chest.   He must have chosen to face death without remorse.    I would borrow from his courage, I thought.   Yes, perhaps the whole idea of facing cancer this day was not some payment for past sins, but a time to use the courage of another man to face one's own mortality.
       I survived the operation, and have, luckily, survived any recurrence of cancer to date.  But that's not the end of the story.

On Martin Luther King Day three years later, my wife was operated on for breast cancer

      Three years later my lovely wife, Lori, was diagnosed with breast cancer.    We were all shocked.    There was no history of cancer in her family either.   It seemed to come out of the blue.   
       Ironically, her surgery was scheduled on the same day as mine--Martin Luther King Day, 36 months to the day from my surgery.
        It was a double whammy of sorts.
        We began to laugh.    Both of us stricken with cancer.  Both of us having our operations on Martin Luther King Day.   It was far too ironic to be mere chance.    There must be some message, some reason for this statistic anomaly.    A husband and wife from Orange County, California, both conservative republicans, each stricken with cancer and having their operations on MLK Day?
         Now, I was assured there was some reason, some message for us.   
         We began to focus on our lives, and how we lived our lives.   We reevaluated our values, as people do when they face the mortality of death itself.   We each, in our private and personal ways, examined the worth of time, and the most precious assets we enjoyed.
         Martin Luther King fought for personal freedom, for the right of each individual to seek and enjoy the fruits of freedom.   Freedom means that one is able to counter his or her Fears, Intimidations and Complacencies and replace them with Courage, Conviction and Right Actions that benefit future generations.
         There can be little question that under this formula, Martin Luther King was a Sentinel of Vigilance.   He set an example of non-violent revolution for those oppressed by not just the color of their skin, but for those oppressed by the Beast of Terror regardless of race, color or creed.
         He reminded us all, also, that life itself is fragile.  One can be walking down the street one minute and dead the next.   The sad assassination of Mr. King was the result of the Cancer of Humanity.    It was the symbol of the Beast of Terror attacking a Sentinel of Vigilance, fighting non-violence with violence, but in the end, losing the battle.

Cancer caused my wife and me to re-think our lives

        My wife and I viewed our cancer as symbols of bullets fired at us, wounding but not killing us.    It forced us to re-think our lives.
        As a result of our cancer, we elected to move from Orange County, California to New York City where our two children and grandchildren lived.   We made the decision as Grandparents of Vigilance.
        Cancer had shoved reality into our faces.   If we had only today, why spend it away from our children and grandchildren?  Why not be near them so we could share with our offspring and their offspring, the joys of life?   
        In a way, we broke the chains of being bound to living one way of life.   Our crusty outlooks formed after thirty years of living in Orange County, California were sorely tested when we moved to liberal New York City, where the population is a mixture of every race, color and creed imaginable.
        We assimilated.    We began to see the world with different eyes, for our focus was not just on our selves or our way of life, but upon our children and grandchildren.    New York City was the heart of what Martin Luther King sought for all nooks and crannies of the world.

Everyone is equal in New York City

       Everyone is equal in New York City.    There are so many diverse people that any differences between one's race, color, creed, ethnicity, sexual preference, religious or political outlooks melt into one pot of humanity.    It is live and let live.  It is coexist with one another in a peaceful, amicably, respectful culture.
       We have enjoyed four Martin Luther King Days here in New York City.
       Our lives have changed dramatically.
       We see the world not through eyes of the cancer victim, but through the eyes of grandparents, citizens of a world dedicated to the future of the children.
       In many ways, we owe our more universal outlook to Martin Luther King.    We have changed as human beings do when they face their own mortality and realize that the world is not so much about what you believe in, but what is important for a child to believe in.  

Martin Luther King fought for the rights of the children of the world to be free from tyranny and oppression

     Martin Luther King was fighting for the rights of the children of the world to be free from tyranny and oppression.    In his way, he was fighting for the rights of the children of Iraq as well as for the children in America.   He was fighting the Beast of Terror, trying to carve out the cancer in human beings that denigrate others because of superficial differences.  
        He taught my wife and me a lesson in Vigilance.   He reminded us that the Courage to change, the Conviction that change was possible, and that change only comes when one takes the Right Actions that benefit the Children's Children's Children was a worthy goal.

Martin Luther King reminds my wife and me that we will not give up on our dream that everyone will one day be a Sentinel of Vigilance

       While the Beast of Cancer may have attacked us on Martin Luther King Day, the Beast was overpowered by the Sentinels of Vigilance.   We have learned to share with others how to cut out the Cancer of the Beast with the Scalpel of Vigilance, and to treat that cancer with the chemotherapy of the Principles of Vigilance.
         And we owe Martin Luther King a debt of gratitude.   For he reminds us that our mission is to not give up on our dream, the dream that one day everyone will become a Parent, Grandparent, Loved One or Citizen of Vigilance.
        We march the same path.  The one lined with dreams.


Some Highlighted Stories From Last Year

Dec 31 Bush's New Year's Message:  Era Of Vigilance
Dec. 30
Walking The Path Of Terror: The 839th Day

Dec 29 Terrorism's New Year's Ball
Dec 27-28
Indiscriminate Terrorism:  Mother Nature's WMD
Dec. 26
The Beast Attacks Like The Mad Cow Disease
Dec 25
Learn The Secrets Of Vigilance On Christmas Day
Dec 24
Eve Of The Youngest Sentinels Of Vigilance Part V of V
Dec 23
Parable Of The Ant & The Leaf: The Third Secret Of Vigilance
Part IV of V from the Legends Of Christmas Vigilance
Dec 22
 Part III of V:  How Rock Candy Banished Darkness From The Land Of Vigilance
Dec 21
Part II of V:  The First Secret Of Vigilance
Dec. 20
Part I of V--The Legend Of Christmas Vigilance.
Dec. 19
What Do Michael Jackson & Saddam Hussein Have In Common?
Dec. 18
Torturing Saddam In The Zoo Of Vigilance
Dec 17
Interview With Saddam In His Iraqi Rat Hole
Dec 16
New Drug Fights Teenage Beast Of Terror
Dec 15 Capturing Weapons Of Mass Destruction:  Saddam Hussein

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Jan 18--Banishing Those Who Dance With The Beast Of Terror