A few days ago, I received notification that there was a new post from one of the prostate cancer bloggers I follow. The man is Jim Mantock and his blog is Yet Another Prostate Cancer Blog. I hadn’t been following Jim’s blog as long as many folks had. He started blogging about his stage-IV prostate cancer back in 2008, nine years before I was ever diagnosed. What drew me to Jim’s blog was the extraordinarily calm, indomitable spirit he showed when writing about, for example, being confined to his bed because metastases to his spine had paralyzed his legs. Were I in that situation, I see myself raging against the world like a mad dog. But he blogged and blogged, with a remarkable determination. He shared everything, even a picture of the room in which he was confined.
This newest blog post was not by Jim, however. It was posted by his wife, Lisa, who wrote
“On August 11, 2019, I said good-bye to my husband, my friend, my partner and the one who always loved me best. Jim Mantock took my heart with his final breath. He passed away peacefully laying next me to in our bed at home. We were blessed with a love beyond measure and 30 years of happiness and memories. Jim was a gift to many and the romance of my lifetime. Rest in peace my angel…
“Thank you to all who followed Jim’s blog. He treasured knowing that his voice was heard by so many.”
The post hit me like a fist in the gut. After you’ve read a guy’s prostate cancer blog for a while, you come to believe that, however bad his prognosis, he somehow always makes it back to the computer for another post. It’s as if by serializing his life, he guarantees his own survival—if only because he has an army of followers waiting to hear from him. Lisa’s post put an end to that illusion.
Dan Zeller, whose prostate cancer blog I also follow, wrote about Jim’s death:
“In nearly nine years of blogging about prostate cancer, I’ve learned that there’s a small but very supportive community of fellow patients fighting this disease.
“That community just got a little smaller with the passing of Jim from Yet Another Prostate Cancer Blog.”
I’ve always admired the humanity of Dan’s posts. He is absolutely right that we are a community, albeit one formed in reaction to a disease we’d prefer never to have encountered. Through this community, experienced almost entirely online, we get a glimpse into how others deal with sometimes devastating diagnoses. The fact that Jim Mantock posted about his terminal disease for 11 years, sharing his good news—his PSA dropped or his antidepressant “cocktail” turned out to be effective—and devastating developments, was a testament to the hopeful power of expression. Though the rest of us are crushed to have lost such a courageous voice in the prostate cancer community, I have to believe that all those posts Jim wrote gave him and those who loved him some comfort on a journey that ended far too soon.