Wednesday, February 13, 2008

One Nerve Left

Note: Only One Day Left
If you want a chance to win a free iTunes gift certificate as part of my shameless flogging of my brother's ride against cancer, you've only got one day left.

Last night...
I sat on a bus for three hours, traveling approximately four miles. Finally, I got so impatient that I got off and walked through the ice storm the final mile home. At first, we seemed to make good progress, then we came to a dead halt, which became a crawling halt.

Until then, I was having a good time reading my book. But when it became apparent that I might have enough time on the bus to finish the remaining 800 pages, and that I might not see 3B before he went to bed, despite his being up late, since he napped until 5, I decided to Hans Brinker it home.

At least I learned a few things along the way: in an ice storm, even if the sidewalk is coated in a half inch of ice, the grass median is more treacherous, and I'm capable of skating in work shoes on glass ice downhill on an eight percent grade while my laptop bag swings wildly behind me.

And I made it home just in time to read Pajama Time to 3B two and a half times, while he had his sippy cup of milk and brushed his teeth, until he said, "end," closed the book in my hands, sat up and held his arms out for Mama to carry him to his crib.

So far this morning...
I left the house before 3B woke up. I spent a half an hour standing out in an ice storm, waiting for a bus. My iPod battery is dead. My cell phone battery is dead. I'm going to be sitting in meetings for seven hours today. Callooh freakin' callay.

To cheer myself up, I'm going to look at the bright side of a few things, including some of your recent comments, which I've slacked on responding to of late.

Thanks for all the contributions to Brother #2--one of you loyal six readers even posted a comment about your contribution on my Facebook page. You've pushed Bro #2 well past his fundraising goal. It is true, as The King pointed out, that none of your money, nor all of it together, will eliminate cancer tomorrow, or next month, or perhaps within our lifetimes. But it is still important to keep making incremental progress, because each increment saves someone--even if it's too late for those who you wanted to save.

After Dad died, I lost faith in many things, among them was the ability of anyone to survive a brain tumor. That belief became so ingrained that it was reflexive. When I heard that someone had a brain tumor, my reaction was to write them off before I'd even heard their prognosis. I felt that no matter what the doctors said, there was no hope. I even worked with a woman for awhile who'd had a softball-sized tumor removed from around her optic nerve, but I still didn't believe that survival was possible. My faith in medicine had been replaced with a faith in the lethality of cancer.

But then something happened in France, while I was in Colorado, which restored my faith in medicine and in life. I sat on my living room floor, leaning back against the couch, my dinner on my lap, and watched TV. I watched this man, whose body had been riddled with cancer, from his testicles to his brain, as he shredded his competition:

And I cried.

But I wasn't sad, I was relieved. My tears were the release of years of frustration and mourning caused by cancer. In Armstrong, I saw an angry determination to fight to not just survive, but to thrive, and it made me realize that when I gave up my faith in medicine, I'd given up the fight against cancer.

I didn't give up without good reason--my Dad had died when I was 16, after all--and there is a time for everything...a time to give up as well as a time to search. But, in this moment, I realized that while I had been tearing down my faith, others had been building cancer treatments.

These had been built one step at a time, in incremental steps. In fact, what had been an experimental treatment at the time Dad had his tumor is now a somewhat common treatment for prostate cancer. And it's likely that some of what was experimental at the time of Dad's cancer was refined in the intervening years and helped save Vampboy.

And as I watched Armstrong leave his team and the rest of the peloton behind and haul himself up the road to Sestriere one pedal stroke at a time, I thought about the likelihood that someday I would develop cancer. I thought about who would make the incremental advances that would give me a second chance at life if that were to happen. And I thought about whether or not I could help make some of those advances myself--because even if they didn't help me, they might help save someone else.

And that is when I rejoined the fight against cancer. Although I have a skeptical faith in medicine--I doubt the full faith of my childhood will ever return--I do believe that this faith, and the progress it engenders, is better than no faith. And that's why I thank all of you for your contributions, especially you, King, for whom I know that faith in any progress is near impossible to sustain.
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
--Dylan Thomas

I thank you for your tribute to your mom and Joey and my uncle and my dad, and I know that you won't ever go fully over to hate--I know, as my mom did, that you're too loving and giving for that, which is a tribute to your mom and dad. But now is a time to weep, and to rage--and your sorrow and anger reflect the depth of your love for your mom. If you're anything like me, the weeping and the raging won't go away, although they'll fade. Knowing you, I'm sure that as your anger diminishes, your love will fill the void.

Of course, that all won't happen tomorrow or next month; it will continue throughout your lifetime. It will continue because you are the living memory of your mom, who gave all of her love to you, minute by minute, hour by hour, her whole life through, just as my mom gave me hers. And just as I will get off the bus and walk home through an ice storm to spend a few minutes with 3B before he sleeps so that I can pass on Mom's love to him, I know that you will do whatever it takes to pass on the love your mom gave you.

As MetroDad said, and as all the other parents echoed, there is nothing more precious than time together with loved ones. Even for guys like you and me, King, who can no longer spend time together with all those who we love, the time we did have with them is a gift that can't be taken from us. It's a gift that is ever-expanding in our hearts. And the love that time begets is a gift that we can't help but pass on to others, as an unconscious, living tribute to those who gave their love to us.

And that, plus the fact that it's still icy out, plus the fact that drivers here are about as capable of driving in winter weather as I am of carrying a tune, dunking a basketball, or sprouting wings and flying to the moon, is why I'm certainly not taking the bus home tonight.

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  1. Nice spam comments you got there. Feh.

    I am a huge wuss when it comes to walking on slippery surfaces. Maybe it's because I dislocated my knees in high school approximately 42 times. That's why I was applying industrial-strength amounts of salt to our front steps this morning. Did you at least wear a bike helmet while loafer-skating home tonight?

    I gotta say, I don't usually donate to charity. Somehow it feels too abstract. I'll crochet a hat for the homeless in my town, or give to someone I know (or know through someone else, like your bro) who is fundraising. Seems like it's more meaningful to work locally--though now that I think about it, that has a sort of NIMBY-esque flavor. Like, "all those starving Africans? They should figure it out themselves. Tsunami victims? Australia can lend a hand." That doesn't really work either, does it?

    I was just thinking of "Do not go gentle" yesterday. Coinkydink!

  2. I was going to add a comment to your last post, about cancer research and survivorship, but you got there first. Good points all!

    I work every day side by side with someone whose life was saved by research and experimentation with new treatments for cancer. His wife died of the same cancer (same doctor, even) several years before he was diagnosed. By the time his case needed treating, new therapies were available.

    When I lived in New York, I worked with one of the earliest autologous marrow donors, another success story. She had been diagnosed at a young age with a cancer that would have cut short her life if she hadn't been given a shot at what was then a trial treatment. Thanks to the perseverance and insight of the panel of doctors who took on her case, a lot of other people today are surviving.

    It's frustrating when the dragon wins, and sometimes he still does. But that does not negate the progress that has been made. Do we still have miles to go? Yes. The road that crosses those miles is signposted by hope. We can try and risk failure, or we can fail to try.

    Ice on the median? How would you feel about, say, a 60-degree high for the day, with a low that's well above freezing? Would that discombobulate you? You really should try California for a change . . .

    Individual notes will come later, but right here let me add my thanks to yours for all the people who chipped in and supported cancer research as I rode. The outpouring was well beyond my expectation. The ride went well, and I don't have a final figure yet for how much money was raised, but I know we did some good. Many thanks to all!

  3. Anonymous3:37 PM

    Thanks to FSB and the family. The King is still here.

    TCB to keep on truckin.