Of Cancer And Foxholes And Atheists - An Inspiring Profile In Courage

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Esther Damaser of Yellow Springs, Ohio has a rare form of cancer called "ocular melanoma" which is resistant to treatment and almost 100% fatal after it has metastasized. Over her 28 years since being diagnosed with the disease she has basically taken treatment into her own hands. It's not that she doesn't trust doctors - indeed she says that she "marvels" whenever one of them freely offers their knowledge to her while she is seeking out treatments - but rather that she wisely recognizes the reality of her situation. That is to say that her cancer is a rare form that does not receive a lot of research dollars, and that doctors, while helpful and educated, are not omniscient. It is a "do it yourself disease", as she quips, and she has been remarkably successful as evidenced by her long-term survival and quality of life.

She's also been an atheist all her life.

The process of seeking new treatments and trials, taking risks, then finding if those risks have added time to her life or taken it away has sometimes been wrenching, Damaser says. And while many people find that facing a life-threatening illness leads them to become more religious, she has not taken that route. A lifelong atheist, Damaser found she hasn’t followed the maxim that “there are no atheists in foxholes” — those who find God while in a life-threatening situation.

“I’m in a foxhole here,” she said. “I’m facing my imminent demise. And I’m still an atheist. Religion gives me no comfort.” -[Original news story written by reporter Diane Chiddister of Yellow Springs News Online]

My very best wishes to Esther, and here's to her courage and tenacity! She's truly an inspiring human being.

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iheartmitochondria's picture

Deathbed Conversions

You know, I never have understood the whole deathbed conversion thing. I'm young, and I still have a lot to learn, but one thing that surviving my early 20's has taught me is to never trust a decision when you are overly emotional. It is rarely a good one. So, watching someone turn to a deity that never concerned them throughout their life just demonstrates to me that that person needs a crutch to lean on to get them through their difficulty. Imminent death does NOT bring special insight into spiritual matters or any different connection to the world. It might make you more sensitive and emotional, however.

Jim Downey's picture


That is heartening. I do understand about "do it yourself" diseases - one such runs in my family, as I have mentioned previously. My sister, who is in the early stages of the disease, has had to basically explain the disease to her doctors, and has had to search to find someone with any real qualifications to treat it. Fortunately, she finally has found such a doctor, and even though the disease is still poorly understood, she at least has someone she can turn to for help and treatment ideas.

Oh, and she's an atheist, too. Yes, I am very proud of her.

Jim Downey

Like Science Fiction? Read *or listen to* my novel, Communion of Dreams, for free.

Hank Fox's picture

Do It Yourself

Considering the complexity of biology, I think every disease has a large do-it-yourself component.

I have a young friend with diabetes, and he has a sister with it too. The two of them have had it since they were babies. My friend is an athlete and looks healthy as hell, his sister is wheelchair-bound due to having her feet amputated. His dad once confided the belief that the difference is because the son has been aggressive about taking care of himself.

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