The call came early on the morning of Christmas Eve. Our friend Jim Chastain's long battle with cancer was over, a battle he'd been waging since 2001. Jim's first bout with cancer resulted in the amputation of his right arm. For any person, that is traumatic. For a right-handed writer, it certainly "cramped his style" but it did not deter him. He taught himself to write and type with the left one.
In the past couple of months, I’ve received many phone calls and e-mails from readers wanting to know more about Jim Chastain. How is he doing? Has he gotten worse? When are you going to run another chapter of his story? The good news first: Jim is still alive, and as long as he lives, there is hope. The bad news: There won’t be any more stories about him.
"Life is Real: Writing the Final Chapters" is a blog The Oklahoman provided to help us have a conversation about what happens to an individual and their family and friends when one has been told there is no hope for a long life. It is not an easy conversation, but who among us would not like to do it well when that time comes for us or for someone we love?
Jim was diagnosed with terminal cancer more than 1 1/2 years ago. Since then, the family’s emotions have been difficult to keep in check, and tempers are stretched taut as bowstrings. Minor provocations launch flurries of verbal arrows, all speeding toward targets no one really wants to hit. Living in the shadow of a death sentence isn’t easy. It gets more complicated once the initial shock wears off and everyday life intrudes.
Jim Chastain’s eyes sweep across the bookstore, landing for a moment on each face. There’s LeAnn, his wife, chatting with a friend near the gelato counter. His daughter, Maddye, 17, talks with Jim’s parents, just in from Bartlesville. His sister and grandmother sit near his 14-year-old son, Ford, who is strumming quietly on a guitar. Surrounding the Chastains are dozens of guests in rain-damp tweed or leather. Some mill around a table laden with snacks, coffee and Arizona green tea. Others find seats in front of the fireplace.
The incisions sliced down and across his belly, perpendicular lines of pain the prescription analgesics could only begin to touch. He could feel the device inside him, a titanium pump occupying the space where his gall bladder had been for the past 44 years. Beneath the bandages, the pump bulged out of his abdomen like some gestating creature from the latest "Alien"sequel. But the real monster was growing beneath it.
Photo Gallery: A Day in the Life
Jim Chastain has many things: a loving wife, a daughter who will soon graduate from high school, a son who is a gifted musician, a great job at the Capitol, a large home in Norman, a growing literary reputation and a large circle of friends. What he doesn't have is time. "The doctors have told me that I have months left, not years," said Chastain, 44. "That's not enough time."
Jim Chastain Links
- Buy Jim's Books (paypal)
- "I Survived Cancer but Never Won the Tour De France" (amazon.com)
- Jim's personal Web site
- Jim's Poetry
- Make a donation
- Ford Chastain's Music
Jim Chastain's Blog
Jim Chastain is an accomplished author, attorney, and poet who is dealing with reality of death on a daily basis.
- Recent Posts
Read more Jim Chastain's Blog
Charlotte Lankard's Blog
Charlotte Lankard is a marriage and family therapist and director of the James L. Hall Center for Mind, Body and Spirit at Integris.
Read more Charlotte Lankard's Blog
A Day in the Life: Part 2
A Day in the Life: Part 1
Ken Raymond's Blog
Reporter Ken Raymond of The Oklahoman shares his thoughts on knowing, understanding and covering Jim Chastain.
- Recent Posts
Read more Ken Raymond's Blog
Stories about Jim from NewsOK
- Sept. 24, 2008: St. Gregory's sets lecture
- July 27, 2008: Poet's verses provoke thought
- July 9, 2008: Author to read poetry
- June 29: 2008: A profile of Jim Chastain
- Oct. 15, 2007: Trying situations turned useful
- Sept. 3, 2007: Poems give poignant lessons
- Jan. 24, 2007: Author finds reasons to laugh
- Dec. 10. 2006: Author combats health crisis
- Dec. 9, 2006: Author to celebrate birthday