I am tired (but it was worth it). Right now, I want to read more than I want to write. I also want some of these thoughts to exist outside of my body and grow into trees, or concrete into pearls, or whatever they do in fresh air, so there’s room for the next ideas in the web. Or for the 27-year-old who got over his first type of cancer just in time to get another kind that’s behaving very badly. Because he’s been on my mind all afternoon and I haven’t yet twigged what that’s about. Oh and love. I thought about love today too.
The year I was 27 I did my internship in pediatrics. I expanded and solidified the knowledge I am using today to marginally participate in helping this young man. I kicked off that year by breaking up with a boyfriend. I moved four hundred miles. I was a doctor, but I was hours late for work one morning because I locked my car keys in, and myself out, of my apartment. And I was so anxious about it I could hardly stop crying. Thanks, Mom!
I second-guessed myself almost every second of every day. The human beings who filled out the lives I was supposedly saving scared the shit out of me. Then I met this woman with an advanced degree in mathematics who moved 6000 miles from Africa to escape her abusive husband (who had followed and was still stalking her), and took three buses to work every day to clean houses because she aspired to the lofty goal of moving her daughters into a house where they weren’t at risk for lead poisoning. Humbled as I was by her trials and determination, I was sodden and caged by my own fears: feeling constantly overwhelmed, barely competent, and utterly feeble in face of the blinding, rampant scale of unmet basic human needs. I. Was. Miserable.
But I was. And I’m not anymore. Because that year ended. And I made other choices. And not once during that year, not even in my darkest hours, was there any real doubt in my mind that I would make it to 28.
In the past two weeks I have made some exciting important decisions. What to do with my car. Thinking about finding a new apartment, how to bring art and love into my life.
In the past two weeks the serpent in his chest has bit down harder, and has grown so much that he can’t walk his dog without getting short of breath.
And I hate this stuff: the drama-rama, tragedize, venerate, hero-ify thing we do over first-world young people with horrible diseases because we can’t find other ways to accept it, empathize, stop feeling guilty about being healthy, figure out what to say.
But I can’t figure out what to say.
Dude, you are a number on a spread sheet and some demographics, but where I work you really have our attention. We heard the news today that your disease has gotten worse, and I know that most of us took a moment to sit in silence and absorb that.
Somehow, I imagine that you are taking it better than we are.
I do hope our drug works for you, because that’s a win for everyone. But mostly I hope you have two things: 1) Yourself – I hope you grew into these diagnoses and found your own confident, honest way with your path. 2) Selfless others – I hope you have numerous folks who can put aside their own fear and grief and be present with what you need.
And just in case it helps at all, please know that people who will never know you are rooting for you.