If you will allow, gentle readers, I’d like to resume our four decade conversation on these pages after an eight-month hiatus. I have sorely missed the interaction with you.
My return to writing after this unexpected interruption brings to mind one of my favorite tales from the history of journalism in America.
On June 1, 1897, The New York Herald reported that American writer and humorist Mark Twain was “grievously ill and possibly dying. Worse still, we are told that his brilliant intellect is shattered and that he is sorely in need of money.”
Twain, the pen name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, was in London at the time preparing to cover Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee for another American newspaper, William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal. In truth, Twain was neither sick nor intellectually depleted nor in particular financial distress.
On June 2, 1897, The Journal sought Twain’s reaction to the erroneous story in The Herald. He famously replied: “The report of my death was an exaggeration.”
I understand Twain’s amusement with that “exaggeration” with far more clarity today than I did eight months ago when I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Burkitt’s Lymphoma. Out of the blue, I went from a workaday routine to fighting for my life with a rare and aggressive cancer that had literally almost consumed me before I knew I was sick.
Burkitt’s Lymphoma is one of the fastest growing human cancers known. The chemotherapy regimen used to treat the disease is intense and severe. But the medical team at North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, used those drugs to save my life.
The process included both intravenous and intrathecal chemotherapy – drips into a PICC line in my arm and chest and injections directly into my spinal fluid in my lower spinal column. Oncologist Dr. Jiahuai Tan in Tupelo fought for me and my family and I credit him with no less than saving my life.
Dr. Tan spoke often of my fate being in God’s hands. Isn’t it always? But I am now in full remission from the cancer. My prognosis is good. I have returned to a full schedule of work, civic engagement, and time with my wonderful family.
Many of you readers had a hand in that battle through your prayers and support. For that, my family and I remain eternally grateful. In all honesty, there were times during the treatments that doubt, fear and despair were as real an enemy as the malignant blood cells.
Prior to that battle, I suppose I believed that writing this column was in great measure who I was. Wrong. This column is not who I am, but it is something I have loved doing. I started writing an opinion column during my student days in 1978 at Mississippi State University. That was 40 years ago in the days before the Internet, social media, cable television news, or email.
Since that inauspicious beginning, I continued to write a weekly and later twice-weekly op/ed column through the next four decades. During those years, it was my privilege to cover local, state, and on occasion, national politics.
I covered the 2004 Democratic and Republican national political conventions. I covered numerous Mississippi legislative sessions. I kept the confidences of U.S. senators and representatives, governors, appellate and trial court judges, prosecutors, law enforcement officers, statewide elected officials, and state legislators. Some of them even became friends – others, well, not so much.
This is an interesting time in the life of our state and nation. I still think civic engagement matters. I always saw this column as a conversation with the reader, one in which we learn from each other. My goal has always been to spur thought and discussion about the issues of the day.
After eight months away from you, I find myself anxious to resume the conversation. I thank God for the opportunity and hope that you readers will again – as you have over four decades – engage in that dialogue with me as we share the goal of advancing the quality of our lives in this state and nation.
Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at email@example.com.