risk of developing cancer from the radiation, versus
the possibility of a tumor growing for six months
and not knowing.”
Meanwhile, he has kept busy. In October 2015,
Lawing accepted a job as a life enrichment assistant
at a local nursing facility where he had volunteered
for over a decade. The position requires him to work
two days a week: one weekday and either a Saturday
or Sunday. He organizes group activities like bingo
or discussions about current events and, of course,
plays his guitar and leads the patients in singing old-
“For me it’s not a job as much as it is an opportunity to interact with those residents and to enhance
their quality of life,” he says.
Lawing also leads congregational singing at the
Church of the Exceptional, a nondenominational
church for people with physical and mental disabilities, where he has been a member since 1977. In
addition, he plays guitar and sings with the Shingle
Hollow Community Choir, a group of senior citizens
that performs at nursing homes and churches in the
Rutherford County area.
Bro, Lawing’s longtime friend from the Kidney
Cancer Association, says Lawing's gentle demeanor
is an asset when talking with newly diagnosed
cancer patients. “In stressful circumstances, he is a
calming influence,” Bro says.
To White, Lawing’s first oncologist at the Levine
Cancer Institute, his former patient is an inspira-
tion. “He’s one of the people leading the charge and
changing people’s attitudes toward their disease
and involvement in their own care,” he says. “He
reminds me of why I went into medicine. Every time
you see him, you remember all the reasons you went
into it and why you continue.”
Lawing’s passions, whether sharing music or
advocating for kidney cancer patients, have given
him a mission and a sense of purpose.
“Every day that I’m alive is a gift and a miracle,”
he says. “The few meager steps that I initially took
in sharing my cancer experience or in playing and
singing a gospel song have been so rewarding and, in
a sense, life-giving to me.”
JENNY SONG is a freelance writer from Levittown, New York.
Michael Lawing brings
a smile to the face of
hymns to patients.