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.
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.
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.
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.