The Enemy Within

It was different this time because we knew. I had been standing in a crowded Beijing subway when the call came, mid-October. I remember the feeling of mild surprise about the miracle of subterranean connectivity when my brother’s number appeared on the display. “I have bad news”, he told me, his voice still affected by recent shock. He’d been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Hartwig Lorenz-Meyer (Foto: Familie Lorenz-Meyer)

The weeks to follow were a time of adjusted expectations and prognosis, communicated mostly through unstable transcontinental Skype connections. As distinguished gastroenterologist, my brother was an expert in matters of his own sickness. “Six months maximum”, was his first sober assessment. Then a period of sudden hope, when five weeks of chemotherapy showed unexpected results, the liver metastases nearly gone, the original tumor significantly reduced. He even dared to plan a trip to Sweden with his family for the coming summer to see the midsummer sun.

But the evil demon wouldn’t have it. Unnoticed for some time, the tumor had already spread upwards, toward the peritoneum. Ignoring the demise of its original incarnation at pancreas and liver, it now grew with an amazing speed, eating itself into the substance of my brother’s body, transforming food and good tissue into a bloody cancer-infested liquid that inflated his belly and let him shrink and grow at the same time.

When I visited the family during the christmas break he was still able to pick me up at the Lindau railway station, or take part in a sunny one-day family excursion to the nearby mountains. I left for Beijing again, but only three weeks later I had to come back and we met at the funeral of our sister Gabriele in Berlin. “She wanted to show me the way”, he would comment upon the irony of her sudden and unexpected death by heart failure.

Another three weeks in Beijing, then another call, his voice already so frail and breathless this time that it left no room for denial. I took the next possible plane to Germany. Now it was one of his grown-up daughters who picked me up at Lindau station. My brother sat in the huge leather armchair in his living room, looking incredibly thin and beautiful. He greeted me with a warm smile.

One week of downward spiral, the outside world dark and covered by snow and ice. Saying goodbye, saying goodbye. Then no talking any more, just labored breathing and desperate struggle for a less painful position. “The last days were as if the world had stood still”, his eldest daughter wrote later. When the breathing stopped this sunday morning, his wife called the available members of the family and we sat quietly at his side until his body came to final rest.


  1. Ich habe Hartwig gut gekannt, geschätzt und geliebt. Vielen Dank für Ihre Worte.
    Heike Wendel

  2. So sad about your (unknown) brothers (and sisters) death!
    Maybe because of your clinical, sincere, warm and hearty report.
    Mein aufrichtiges Beileid! Norbert

  3. In Chinese, we say “节哀顺变” to people who just lost loved ones, which means to “limit one’s sadness and be used to the new situation”, how pragmatic!

    My deepest condolences to you and your family!

  4. Ich habe Hartwig vor sehr langer Zeit kennengelernt, sofort gemocht und auch wenn wir uns lange nicht gesehen haben, so ist die Verbindung doch nie ganz abgebrochen. Ich bin dankbar, ihn vor kurzer Zeit noch einmal gesehen zu haben. Danke für Ihre lieben Worte. Mein aufrichtiges Beileid.

  5. We never know what jarring events will shake our world!
    Our deepest sympathy to all of your family.
    Mary & Ed

  6. Ich habe lange mit Hartwig zusammengearbeitet und er war ein Freund. Als er mir im Oktober von seiner Erkrankung erzählte, habe ich ihn besucht; Ich wollte ihm sagen, was er mir bedeutet und wie er mein Leben positiv beeinflusst hat. Doch dann war es so wie es immer mit ihm war, er erzählte, er hörte zu, wir quatschten. Ich bin weggegangen ohne mein Vorhaben in die Tat umzusetzen. Bei unserem Telefonat an seinem Geburtstag erzählte er mir von Gabrieles Tod, die ihm noch Tage zuvor von einem Traum erzählte, in welchem sie mit Hartwig davon geflogen sei… Jetzt blieb mir nur noch an seinem Sarg zu stehen und um ihn zu weinen. Ich traure mit euch.

  7. We send our hugs from all of us in Springboro for both your losses so close together. We remember your brother so well when we met and talked with him in 2000. Love Ted and Becky

  8. Wir haben Hartwig und seine Familie kurz nach unserem Einzug in Wohltorf kennen gelernt. Immer freundlich und gut gelaunt hat er uns bei weiteren Besuchen in Wohltorf begrüßt.
    Der Familie Lorenz-Meyer, die in so kurzer Zeit zwei Geschwister verloren hat, sprechen wir unser aufrichtiges Mitgefühl aus.

  9. Lieber Lorenz, ich hoffe, Schmerz und Trauer lassen Dich auch erleben, wie wundervoll jeder Tag ist, den Du zum Beispiel mit Hartwig verbringst. Er bleibt bestimmt noch eine Weile bei Dir.

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