The doctor said, “Say ah.” He was holding my tongue with a medical-grade gloved hand and a wooden depressor at the time, so I said, “Auuhhhhhhh.” Then, while shining his r2d2–esque pen light in my mouth, he said with genuine curiosity, “Huh.” When he let free my tongue I said, “Hey, what do you mean, ‘huh’?”
A week later, a man who had clearly gone to more school than I, passed the MCAT with flying colors, earned esteemed degrees, and practiced on hundreds if not thousands of patients, came at me with barbed metal rods to yank flesh out of my throat for a biopsy. I wondered if this barbaric procedure was one of the pinnacles of modern medicine. This was the start of my journey with cancer.
In all seriousness though, I am amazed at the people, skill, knowledge, and resources that I have access to. I am realizing that any complaining I might likely succumb to is quickly balanced by the extreme position of privilege I am in, especially on a global scale. Though this chapter of my life may be hard, I am aware that to take the medical system for granted would be such an insult to those who do not have access, health insurance, and basic care that is essentially a human right. I will not dishonor these people. I will be grateful for the opportunity I have. I am going to give this everything I've got.
To be certain, there is always someone who has it better than you, and someone who has it worse. This is true with cancer as well. No two journeys are exactly alike. It is good to listen to others and connect with others on this, but ultimately, I'm walking much of the road alone.
It feels incredible and also scary to have people I know and respect and admire show up to support me. It feels like pressure to do a good job. It also feels like love. Many of you know that I'm just not that great at asking for help. Well, here is one place in my life where I will not have a choice. I realize that helping others brings intimacy, closeness, and increases our own sense of shared humanity. I love helping others. So let me say, in learning, that I welcome your help. I strive to accept your help and kindness with grace. Whether it is bowl of broth, a kind word, a humorous movie recommendation, or a simple hug, your offerings are welcome. We might even have a garden work party if you’re up for that kind of thing. Also, Heather and Zoe will need time away from me, to go out and play with friends, to decompress, and just be in the wider world.
I want to express my gratitude for Heather and Zoe. I may get grumpy and am sorry in advance. I will do my very best to stay positive and keep to the plan. If you see me wandering outside, drooling and dressed in a smock and laughing at the stars, know that I am ok! Heather and Zoe, I will Hold Fast!
I'll be saying thank you a lot. People’s generosity has already brought tears to our eyes. I think it is because these moments simply inspire hope and this profound sense of community. Our need to be connected to others runs deep. We are better and stronger together, all of us.