Most of us wake up every morning going through our mundane life routines, not stopping for a second to look around and question the importance of life or learn to realize that life in essence is much more fragile. Neither did Dr. Paul Yoder, a professor of English here at UA Little Rock, when he began his New Years in 2004 dealing with constant agony and uncertainty when he would go for CT scans until the results came in and he found out he had throat cancer.
Since his recovery, Dr. Yoder has shared his story on his blog “The Hunger Artist: Eating and Travel After Throat Cancer.” This very interesting and sometimes surprisingly upbeat blog talks about his journey with cancer. Luckily, I had an opportunity to meet the man behind this, and talk more about his blog, his struggles and how cancer was in fact a blessing in disguise.
“When I got sick, there were no social media support outlets,” Yoder said. “So, so my wife wouldn’t have to keep answering the same question about how I was doing, I set up a Listserv.”
Listserv is an old electronic mailing list software where senders can send one email to a list of people and then transparently send it on to the addresses of the subscribers of the list. Yoder used this service to post updates about what was happening with his cancer journey.
“Cancer is not something you can opt out of,” he said. “If you can’t beat something, why try to fight it, right? Is that something you would want to do last with few years of your life?”
Dr. Yoder’s therapist told him how cancer is a metaphor, only when you’re not living every waking moment with it. Ironically, he was also told that he had about an 80% probability of cure, which means he will still be around in five years. Those, to him, seemed like pretty good odds.
Dr. Yoder says he feels like his cancer is back every time he has a sore throat. In his blog, he talks about his dreams of the eraser-board that had reports about the cancer kept appearing, a metaphor for how cancer was always on his mind.
Because of his throat cancer, Dr. Yoder is no longer allowed to chew food and must get it all through liquid form.
“I am not a liquid diet person,” he said. “I am not going to puree my food.”
Instead of just doing this alone, he realized a lot of people out there deal with cancer like him, so he decided to raise awareness through his blog.
“While it may save your life, cancer treatment also can do some significant damage of its own,” he said. “For throat cancer patients, that damage generally has to do with eating, and my blog is intended to discuss eating problems that accompany throat cancer treatment, and I hope, gather solutions.”
Not only is Dr. Yoder an inspiring person, and a pleasure to be around, he is also a great teacher.
“I take a lot of comfort in the fact that I am alive and that I am a better person,” he said.