Friday, August 21, 2009

Participation and reciprocity

Recently I was encouraged to be the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team in Training honor teammate. A designated spokesperson to the team to hopefully provide some inspiration. It was an endeavor that was somewhat out of my comfort zone, but circumstances compelled me to participate in as much as I'm capable to reciprocate my appreciation for the support I've received. I was asked to speak at their commencement. I would like to share those thoughts with your indulgence.....

My experience has been at times abstract and strangely experimental in its execution. A relatively new science administered and paid for in human life, money, and support. Not so long ago, statistically, I would not have survived bone marrow transplant treatment. It has been through the efforts of so many, like yourselves, that endeavor to sacrifice and raise money and just as importantly awareness, the impact of which, has been incalculable to me and so many others like me. Among the many revelations of my experience is reciprocity and participation. I'm grateful and indebted for the overwhelming support I've received from so many, including many people in this room, who have so many times refilled my glass when I started to see it less than half full....

Upon reflection of my comments, I don't feel I conveyed my conviction; to bring awareness and provide support wherever I can in reciprocation for the care and uncompromising effort given me by my family and friends, but just as importantly all the health care professionals whose dedication and compassion never considered anything less than success. Eight months later I celebrate remission and rejoice in the increasing success of my bone marrow transplant. It will be some time before I can claim victory, or some acceptable version of that, perhaps next year or the year after that. I can say with certainty that for now detente has been achieved.

Tomorrow, opportunity is mine and I have endeavored to embrace what is availed to me each day. Inspiring words indeed, but a concept more easily said than done. Intrinsically, illness hasn't changed me that much, chemo has disrupted how my mind and body operates to some extent, to be sure. But, I haven't metamorphosed into someone or something else, at least for now. The revelations of recent months have given me some perspective that has caused me to reexamine the choices I have made. Many of which were predisposed by cynicism, obstinacy, or expediency.

That evaluation had caused me some consternation when back in March I serendipitously discovered this small tome in the book store. A little gem* that has since had some impact on me. Without too much preamble, the author describes the concept of choice, and how so many of us have relinquished the freedom of choice through default. ...."being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience... ones' default is the belief that I'm the center of the world and that my immediate needs and feelings are what should determine the worlds priorities".

In default one gives up freedom, imprisoned in individual compartments of thought and ideology, rather than the pursuit of what is truly important...." that which involves attention and awareness and discipline and effort and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad ways every day". For those of you who sacrifice and participate for that which is truly important in myriad ways everyday I hope will be reciprocated with attention deigned with generosity and charitable hearts.

Thank you T.

*"THIS IS WATER" by David Foster Wallace.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

To a friend

This is a requiem to inspiration; from whom and where we find it is of little consequence; that it exists; is divine.

Yesterday, a friend of mine passed away. We weren't close and I really didn't know that much about her. In fact, we had never met, but I felt an unusual connection to her. She was also suffering from cancer. What kind? I don't really know. The more I learned of her resilience and stoic dignity, her intractable perseverance ( for almost 5 years I was told), the more intense my admiration for her became.

Her inspiration to me was imperceptible at first, as I struggled with my own cancer. I had not yet experienced the revelations that prospective brings. It has taken time, time that continues to unravel to reveal that the spectre of uncertainty isn't so unrelenting, if only for a little while; my friend reassured me of this.

Throughout the last eight months I have met many cancer patients experiencing the success of remission. I have been inspired by their insights and rejoiced in their determination and good fortune. I have also shared my treatment experience with many others in the hospital, while I was there. We rarely exchanged words, only knowing glances and a nod with the understanding, in that moment, that this wasn't going to be the same for both us. Would we see each other again? I feared not.

That fear is still an abstraction. It won't seem to release its steely grip. My friend could always give me solace. On occasion I would hear of my friend, doing well, seemingly not constricted with fear and I imagined to myself, with an elegance that we all aspire to, that I aspired to.

With gallant dignity, I had heard, she confronted each day undaunted by her irreconcilable future; content with the comfort that pride in her children brings. I am blessed to know this pride, it comforts me everyday.

I've known my friend's son for a fairly long time, and as I learned of his mothers' condition I couldn't help thinking of chivalry and other anachronisms. Endeavors that inspire imagination of such an overwhelming order, to the extent upon which we are seldom tested. Quixotic and extraordinary, reminiscent of ones' steadfast commitment to someone else in the most desperate need, stalwart and undeterred by impossibility. Qualities rare indeed these days.

Alas, I think of my lovely wife, a handful of friends, and my own family; perhaps not so rare after all, and I'm thankful for that. Today I'm most thankful for my friend, who I only knew as Jim's mom. She meant so much to me when I didn't think I could survive, or felt frightened and uncertain. She provided me illumination and faith, her light is divine.

Thank you Jim's mom... T.