Keys to the Kingdom

I’ve been sitting on this thought for a long while, wondering if I my point of view might evolve.

It hasn’t.

Anyway, it’s more of a feeling, something that struck me deeply when the Duke Cancer Center came into view. Wide-eyed I scanned the breadth of the medical center with that feeling ringing head to toe. Different than I expected? Yes. But I can’t really tell you what I thought the medical compound or the cancer center would look like.

Then the feeling took form: It’s not going away.

The it is cancer. And it doesn’t seem to want to be vanquished from our conversations. Not anytime soon.

I remember over a half-century ago hoping for a cure for cancer. Donations, telethons, essays of what I want to be when I grow up (fireman, astronaut, doctor who finds a cure for…), and my best friend in the Bronx losing both of his parents to cancer. Left two young children behind. Tragic.

I didn’t understand then and clarity escapes me now.

anthony-delanoix-0NiF94VL268-unsplash cathedral

The feeling has offered some words, if for nothing else, to help me understand the dissonance of the moment, of seeing the cancer center’s impressive structure. I didn’t expect the place to be a dump, but I didn’t expect a cathedral either. Or “concierges” at the reception desk.

“Do you validate parking?” I ask.

“Are you here for chemotherapy?”

A question with a question. Hmm. Not yet, but is it retroactive?

Nothing but questions.

Dark humor surfaces when you consider the devastation, because in the dark and in the light the uninvited guest resides, “lives” on your flesh, blood, and bone, sends hourly reminders (at least) of its presence.

Recently, I witnessed two sons, two magnificent young men pay homage to their mom for her tireless role of mom and dad. Because cancer took their father far too soon. The hole never goes away. But his spirit lives and breathes and whispers daily to live. Be alive. Be awake…

I don’t begrudge any of it, nor do I diminish any of the treatments, accomplishments, efforts, the extra time with loved ones, remissions, and what the medical industry has done for so many. Truthfully, if not for modern medicine I’d have been gone a very long time ago.

I don’t, not even once, think “poor me.” I just see it differently and this off-center view matters. Someone has to say it: The bigger the show, the farther you are from the heart and soul (side note: there’s some research on money spent versus breakthroughs). It’s in our lower natures to be territorial, for the ego to feel important and encapsulate itself in impressive structures…

Businesses today seem to talk very often about exit plans. Having one, seeing the possibility of a finish line offers a sense of purpose and perspective. It nudges, shoves, and impels one to get the important things out front in the light. Seeing the fortress, the cathedral to rogue cells rising gloriously from the well-appointed grounds… I don’t see an exit plan on the horizon, nothing that screams “temporary.”

Ironically, if you haven’t thought of the temporary quality of being in this form, the “C word” shoves its way to the front of the line to announce something you’ve known deep down. You really don’t own anything—except your experience and most of that is ephemeral as well. Everything else is rented, borrowed, and handed down including the legacy of your experience in the lives you’ve touched. And as the Italian proverb offers: In the end the pawn and the king go back in the same box.

Cathedrals for the Divine inspire awe and a temporary sense of the eternal.

I just wonder about all the rest…


Photo credit: Anthony Delanoix (

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About Dr. John Panepinto

Direction. Execution. Evolution. Each day can be an expression of living with purpose and focusing on what matters most. My sites share this theme of vision, living in our most important roles and responsibilities from imagination and creativity in a simple, practical way. I am committed to educating and serving, founded in principles of development, that people can use and practice in their every day lives.