Stumbling on Open Ground: Love, God, Cancer, and Rock 'n' Roll
Ken Mansfield opens his touching memoir on facing a cancer battle, not once but twice, by sharing his poignant memory from December 1980 as he first hears the news of John Lennon’s shooting death.
Mansfield is on his knees in Hollywood, California, looking at pictures from his Apple Record days when he gets the call that Lennon has been killed. He describes his feelings as a mix between the joy of great memories and the profound sadness of Lennon’s untimely passing. He reminisces and silently begins asking hard questions of himself and his life, wondering what would happen if he were suddenly taken from this life. What then? What was life about? What happens next? All this occurs before Mansfield becomes a Christian and has those questions answered.
"Readers will value Mansfield’s gentle humor that weaves itself throughout this emotional text and helps to lighten an otherwise overwhelmingly horrific story. Hope and grace win the day from Mansfield’s point of view, so everyone reading this lovely memoir should feel the same response."
Fast forward from this emotional scene to “Book One: Bodega Bay, California, 1996-2002,” in which Mansfield is meeting with his rheumatology physician and receives a referral to another specialist. This doesn’t alarm him until he notices the sign outside the front of the building: his next appointment is at an oncology center. Suddenly, with bright lights flashing in his brain and panic setting in, Mansfield’s world is about to be upended in short and painful order. The diagnosis? A malignant and rare type of slow-growing non-Hodgkin lymphoma that begins in the cells of the immune system called Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia (WM). The prognosis back then is three to five years.
And so begins Mansfield’s first fight with cancer, which he shares in this journal-style text. His wife, Connie, also weighs in from her perspective as his supportive life partner who watched up close how this insidious cancer (and the treatment) was destroying her beloved husband from the inside out. Mansfield beats this beast of a cancer and begins moving on with his very active public life, traveling the world and speaking to groups everywhere, when “Book Two: Calaveras County, California, 2009-2012” begins his second fight with a different type of cancer.
This time around, a war-weary Mansfield gets the news that he has anal cancer and promptly is indoctrinated into countless and ongoing painful treatment plans that he writes about semi-tongue-in-cheek, as he is stripped of his dignity and pride. He shares the medical processes in detail, leaving readers saddened and impatient for this good man’s suffering to end. However, the book is not so much about gaining permanent victory over cancer. It’s more about revealing the God of the Bible’s presence with him throughout the day-to-day challenges and how God strengthens Mansfield for every fight. It’s heartening to read about Mansfield’s strong resolve to fight the good fight for his health and faith while his body is being systematically destroyed by cancer and the treatments meant to cure him.
Readers will value Mansfield’s gentle humor that weaves itself throughout this emotional text and helps to lighten an otherwise overwhelmingly horrific story. Hope and grace win the day from Mansfield’s point of view, so everyone reading this lovely memoir should feel the same response.
Reviewed by Michele Howe on January 15, 2013