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Real Answers™
Copyright: ©2008 Rusty Wright
640 words


By: Rusty Wright


When you suddenly learn you might have only 18 months to live, it’s a good time to sort out what really matters in life.

Last December, Yang Chen, MD, dismissed an aching pain under his shoulder as muscle strain.  Five weeks later, as the pain persisted, a chest x-ray brought shocking results: possible lung cancer that might have spread.

A highly acclaimed specialist and medical professor at the University of Colorado Denver, Yang knew the average survival rate for his condition could be under 18 months.  He didn’t smoke and had no family history of cancer.  He was stunned.  His life changed in an instant.

“I wondered how I would break the news to my unsuspecting wife and three young children,” he recalls. “Who would take care of my family if I died?”

When I heard his story, I felt a jab of recognition.  In 1996, my doctor said I might have cancer.  That word sent me into a swirling vortex of uncertainty.  But I was fortunate; within a month, I learned my condition was benign.

Yang did not get such good news.  He now knows he has an inoperable tumor.  He’s undergoing chemotherapy.  It’s uncertain whether radiation will help.  Yet through it all, he seems remarkably calm and positive.  At a time when one might understandably focus on oneself, he’s even assisting other cancer patients and their families to cope with their own challenges.  What’s his secret?

I learned about Yang’s personal inner resources when we first met in the 1980s.  He worked at the Mayo Clinic and brought me to Rochester, Minnesota, to present a seminar for Mayo and IBM professionals on a less ponderous theme, “Love, Sex and the Single Lifestyle.”  With the audience, we laughed and explored relationship mysteries.  He felt it was essential that people consider the spiritual aspect of relationships, as well as the psychological and physical. 

Later he founded a global network to train medical professionals how to interact with patients on spiritual matters.  Many seriously ill patients want their doctors to discuss spiritual needs and the profession is taking note.

Now a patient himself, Yang exhibits strength drawn from the faith that has enriched his life.  He has established a website – – to chronicle his journey and “offer hope and encouragement to others.”  The site presents a compelling real-life drama as it happens. 

As a follower of Jesus, Yang notes biblical references to God’s “light shining in our hearts” and people of faith being “like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure.”  He sees himself as a “broken clay jar” through which God’s light can shine to point others who suffer to comfort and faith.

As he draws on divine strength, he reflects on Paul, a first-century believer who wrote, “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.”

A dedicated scientist, Yang is convinced that what he believes about God is true and includes information about evidences for faith.  He’s also got plenty to help the hurting and the curious navigate through their pain, cope with emotional turmoil, and find answers to life’s perplexing questions about death, dying, the afterlife, handling anxiety, and more.

With perhaps less than 18 months to live, Yang Chen knows what’s most important in his life.  He invites websurfers to “walk with me for part, or all, of my journey.”  If I’m ever in his position, I hope I can blend suffering with service while displaying the serenity and trust I observe in him.  Visit his website and you’ll see what I mean.


Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer with who has spoken on six continents.  He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively.

"Real Answers™" furnished courtesy of The Amy Foundation Internet Syndicate. To contact the author or The Amy Foundation, write or E-mail to: P. O. Box 16091, Lansing, MI 48901-6091;

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