O Captain! My Captain! Our Fearful Trip is Done…You’ve Earned Your Peace, Leaving Our World a Better Place

Words of tribute written by Walt Whitman upon the death of President Lincoln are appropriate for our iconic Trip Casscells.

Trip spent his ten years with cancer with passion, commitment and courage. He was the living definition of inspiration.

When I last embraced Trip a few weeks ago in Washington, there was an unspoken acknowledgement between us that it would most likely be for the last time. I could read it in his eyes. As he wrapped his frail arms around me, they seemed to communicate in unspoken words that said “All is okay. I’ll be fine and so will you…” In my heart of hearts, I knew that would be the last moment we would share together on this earth. But like all of us, I took my leave hoping that I was wrong; that another remission would magically appear and keep Trip alive and with us just a little bit longer.

But it didn’t. Trip lost his ten year battle to advanced prostate cancer this weekend at age 60. We have all lost a dear friend and inspiration. Although I only had the honor of meeting Trip about three years ago, we developed a special bond. He was everything I strive to be in life. He was also my cancer mentor, showing me how to live and deal with this disease with great resolve and dignity.

As a result of his service in Iraq, Trip was invited to become Assistant Secretary of Defense, Health Affairs.

Trip would easily tell anyone he met: “You know, I shouldn’t be here right now…”  That was no understatement. His cancer was heavily spread throughout his body ten years ago. It was also a time when existing treatments were woefully ineffective for many. But while fighting his disease, Trip had the inner strength to join the military, serving as a physician in Iraq before becoming Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs. It was a position he only accepted because he felt he could improve care and conditions for our veterans who have served our country. In the same ten years, Trip also started two companies that created jobs for hundreds. Above all, he was there to share life with his friends and beautiful family. In ten years, with the help of his friend and gifted oncologist, Dr. Christopher Logothetis at MD Anderson Cancer Center, Trip achieved five remarkable remissions. Any patient or clinician will agree that’s a resounding victory over cancer.

Even with advanced cancer, Trip joined the armed forces and used his medical skills in Iraq.

For patients, Trip was a great supporter and advocate of clinical trials. In a video interview I did with him last November, he said “You don’t want to lose this battle thinking the drug that might save you or someone else is sitting right there on the shelf…” 

Trip, I will always remember our last embrace a few weeks ago and carry your spirit with me. This morning on my way to work, I stopped to view the Pacific Ocean and listened to Mozart’s Requiem in your honor. The constant influx and recess of waves reminded me how fleeting our time on these shores really is. In your time, you left a lasting mark in the sands of our lives for which we will all forever be grateful.

O Captain! My Captain! Our Fearful Trip is Done…Rest in peace my friend.

Read more about Trip: My Day with Trip.

Commitment to others. Just weeks ago, Trip opened his home to meet with other patients and survivors despite having just been released from the hospital.

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13 Responses to “O Captain! My Captain! Our Fearful Trip is Done…You’ve Earned Your Peace, Leaving Our World a Better Place”

  1. god bless you

  2. It’s amazing how a message of sadness can be filled with hope, too. Still, age 59…it’s just too young.

    Thanks, Trip, for letting us take over your home in September. Still wish you could have sat in on the discussion.

  3. What else can I/we say? His loss will be deeply felt not just by family and friends, but also by the band of Brothers he invited into his home last month. God speed you, Trip. May you rest in peace.
    Greg

  4. Bless him and his family.

  5. Although I never met Dr. Casscells in person we started a friendship online.
    I initially contacted him as a result of an article written about him, “When Doctor becomes Patient”. That article talked about his life as well as a POSITIVE outlook after his cancer diagnosis.
    I carry that article today occaisionally refering to it when I feel sorry for myself after my battle with prostate cancer.
    Throughout the years I would email him about my anxiety towards my impending next psa. His emails would always be reassuring. In hindsight this friendship was clearly more one sided, I took more than he recieved. He was in his words “delighted” to personally sign his book about soldiers killed in Iraq that I purchased. Although I never met the man the picture is clear, a selfless individual, a patriot, a scholar, a man dedicated to saving the lives of others. We have lost an American Treasure.

  6. Yet another loss. More tears. I met Trip only once as one of the Band of Brothers he so kindly invited to his house on that bright day in early September. Even though he spoke little and his exhaustion was evident, he exuded a warmth and compassion that made it clear that the man cancer has selfishly taken from this world was indeed the ultimate victor over it.

    His selfless passion remains an inspiration to all of us, who want to do our own small part in helping make this relentless disease a distant memory.

  7. Sorry to hear the news.

  8. Dan – I am truly touched by Trip’s loss … to you,to us and to the wider community. At a time of such positivism and hope, Trip’s condition was a sombre, ironic backdrop to our meeting at his residence.

    May I suggest that the video you are preparing is dedicated to his memory – in the spirit of his life, it will continue to help men and educate them about this insidious disease.

  9. It is always a sad time to hear of the passing of another Prostate Cancer patient. Yes they will fight and carry themselves through the rough times with dignity, but you always live in hope that life playing a cruel joke on you and everything will be as it used to be.
    I am sure it would sadden him to know that there is a drug sitting on the shelves at a VA medical center, and has been since May 2012, that has shown so much promise, especially for metastatic patients. Yet there is stays until someone decides to sign a piece of paper allowing it to be included in the budget.
    It sometimes enrages me that this is happening. For cancer patients, every day counts. Another day to keep fighting and maybe, just maybe, beat this horrendous disease that strips a man of almost everything that makes him a man.
    Rest in Peace. You fought long and hard.

  10. My heart and prayers go out to Roxanne and the kids. In my conversations with Trip at the Prostate Cancer Foundation retreats, he always had a smile and a helping hand. He loved his family and said on more than one occasion, I’m fighting for my kids, I want to see them grow up. Trip, you will be missed by many. You are loved by all who had the great fortune to come to know you.
    Rest, my friend.

  11. Thank you for all your kind words. I am Trip’s niece and am managing a website we’ve set up as tribute to Trip for the family. I’ve linked this article and I know the family will appreciate it. The website if anyone is interested in visiting is http://www.tripcasscells.wordpress.com. Thank you again for your thoughts and prayers.

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