Death, I do not fear you; I am just not ready to go

About 20 years ago, I went to a urologist for a prostate exam and PSA test. When the blood work was in, he said the levels were virtually nil, and then he said something I've never forgotten: "Fate has something else in store for you."

I have ever since wondered from time to time what that something would turn out to be — and now I know. A week ago, as many of you know, I was diagnosed with inoperable, stage four pancreatic cancer.

It's inoperable but treatable with chemotherapy. I got the news from Johns Hopkins cancer surgeon Dr. John Cameron after he looked at my CT scan results and the reading of the pictures by a radiologist.

My first question was whether this was worth fighting. After all, I've heard the stories about advanced pancreatic cancer and wouldn't have been shocked if he said it was time to go home, put my affairs together and undergo pain management therapy until the disease killed me.

The doc said, "Yes, it's worth fighting. With the new chemicals and chemo regimens, there's every reason to fight it." Some hope appeared, and who doesn't cling to hope? What really concerned me was pain and quality of life, which are closely intertwined.

Doctor Cameron and my dear friend Dr. Bill Howard were in agreement that once the chemo began, I would not be tormented by cancer pain, though of course the treatments have certain bothersome side effects.

I was also told there is no reason not to keep working through the time left to me, information that was very important to me. It was a wild weekend after the diagnosis, one highlighted by a wave of love and support from my wife, children and many, many friends.

I made the decision to tell my radio listeners what was going on first thing Monday morning. Monday was a stressful day, as you might imagine. I have been blessed with a tidal wave of well-wishes and love from the people who have listened to me over the many years of the Ron Smith Show.

In the hundreds of email messages to me this week were many that related similar experiences the writers or their loved ones have coped with.

I am blessed in so many ways, among the most important of which is to have discovered how much my work has mattered to all sorts of people, even those not inclined to agree with my political and social views.

How humbling it has been to learn how much I've meant to other people in my business, to be told of the positive impact I've had on them. I really didn't fully understand that, so what a blessing it is to learn of that while I'm still among the living.

My editor here at the Baltimore Sun, Michael Cross-Barnet, asked me the other day if I wanted to continue my column. I said I certainly do, if you'll continue to give me the space. As I told my listeners Monday, I will continue to host my WBAL program, though on a reduced schedule due to the treatments.

My thanks to WBAL management, in particular to General Manager Ed Kiernan, for the support they have offered. I will host as many of my shows as I can, because I love what I do and won't give up until I'm unable to continue. There's no way right now to even guess when that might be.

Tuesday, my wife, June, who among her many talents is being a published poet, wrote a poem summarizing our situation perfectly:


"Death, do not yet boast.

I will not come to you

yet. I will stay with the

army of family and friends

surrounding me who

resist you with all their

might and cherish every

moment of life.

"You will come soon,

just not yet. I do not

fear you. I am just

not ready to go."

Ron Smith's column appears on Fridays. His email is rsmith@wbal.com.