'Take up my message from the veins
Speaking my lesson from the brain
Seeing the beauty through the pain'
I never can quite decide whether my approach to accepting that some of life will never makes sense is a sensical approach. Having a cancer that has no known dietary, genetic, lifestyle or environmental components is something I can never quite balance whether I've given it too much thought or not enough of it. It reminds me an old quote from college that there are things that if you think about too much you'll lose your mind but if you don't think about them at all, you'll lose your soul. They already took out some of my brain so I'm going to keep fighting for my soul.
But there's been a lot of things that challenge the mind and the soul, destructive forces in nature, some we call political, others we call man made, others natural. The labeling or fault is obviously an important part of an equation to avoid repetition or get better at preventing... but while the past is prologue, the prologue's point is to get to fully appreciate the current story.
I see people who say they have learned certain appreciative lessons from things that were destructive. In fact it's a regular occurrence in my life of people who say they are glad they got cancer because they learned to appreciate 'this' or 'that' because of it. I have a hard time saying that because I don't want to be thankful for something damaging. It's like I prefer learning from other people's mistakes, I just don't have enough time to make them all on my own. There is a friend who has heard me and another person tell their stories about cancer. He says it's very interesting to hear us talk about it and he wonders if the reason we sound so different is simply the age we got cancer. He says me getting at age 30 put it in perspective and made me appreciate the shortness of life and the reality of mortality. Our other friend beat it in childhood and he says it made him feel invincible to get through that and that our speeches come across that way even if some of it is the rhyme of getting through the challenges with the right company, the right attitude.
I was in New York last weekend with Elaine and we didn't throw away our shot at seeing Hamilton and Cats and Museums and memories that will last a lifetime. But while I was there I also had a few meals with people as I sometimes do when traveling that are I try to keep off the radar. It turns out if you're like me which is old fashioned (or perhaps just old) I can have very meaningful moments with people without hastags that I'm the only who has to like them. I had dinner with a friend's mom who passed away from cancer this summer. It happened too fast and I've kept in contact with her mom who says she appreciates and says often I'm the only one who checks this regularly on her. I've always thought that if I die of this there's no one I'd have more sympathy than my mother because we're not supposed to bury our children. I met her on a First Descents climbing trip which I raised money for the last time I wen to Boston. And when I'm completely honest with myself I wonder if staying in touch with some of the families those who have passed is a way to still try to reach out to them in a more tangible way. If it ever seems doing so brings on harsh reminders since I am also a cancer guy... I fade away but I try to make sure they never do. To this day, having been to too many cancer events, I've yet to go two full years without someone I met at one of them dying (and some of these have been events where no one was active and there were less than a dozen of us). I've raised money against cancer in general and brain cancer in specific hoping that eventually cancer goes the way of polio and leprosy where it's all but irrelevant globally and we just talk about the people who have to live with the effects of once having had it. Maybe this bar is too low but I just want to get to one where just two years later everyone from one event is alive, one day where everyone lives even if just a short while longer. She was supposed to be running the New York Marathon this year.
I also once again reunited with my friend Dave, the widow of someone who was supposed to be running the New York Marathon 3 years ago when I ran it. She would die on the 4th anniversary of my cancerversary of brain cancer, November 5, 2014. It is those type of events that always both increase the survivors guilt and the thankfulness to still be standing. The 7th one is less than a month away, a big one because it's the median survival rate of people with the surgery I had and I suppose the day after that I become above average.
I reunited with Alexander, the guy who volunteered to lead me through my first Spartan. I'm on my way to my 5th year of trifectas if all goes well at the end of the month. He was the first to hand me a medal something I've passed along plenty since then, handing out happiness. He heard about me from the media and was there to help a cancer guy but we became friends. He's become a father since then, entered the Guinness book of world records and well the evening before I headed to see Cats I might have been a little buzzed as we did a couple of chugging contests at the bar before going there (not the worst way to see Cats just for the record).
There were some precancer day friends to from Ultimate Frisbee. We'd catch some dancing and brunch and go to America's oldest pizzeria to try some New York style pie. It was good to realize we were still connected so far down the line. One lived there, one lives in Bahamas and just happened to be in town and there we met in NYC, a place I've now visited 8 times, every time with a new experience in what seems to be the center of the Universe.
For a few moments, I almost let myself believe that almost all of those friends came because I'm an athletic guy and I would have met them all somehow through the climbing, the ultimate, the Spartans, the New York Marathon. For a few seconds, I almost believed it because happiness and solid connections come from healthy things like exercise right? But at the end of the day, my heart was too honest to let that hole in my brain let that logic slip and I once again realized and accepted that it's okay for parts of life to come from pain, from gaps. The song quoted about and the blog title is from Believer, a song I jam out too once in a while. It has many great lines like the ones quoted above but it makes it easier to accept that sometimes our beliefs about life, love and God they come from pain.
The question isn't whether or not there is pain... we try to mask it with drugs both legal and illegal and activities. But while I was in New York, the only thing I've done every time is go see Van Gogh's Starry night. I also went and saw a few of his other pieces. Van Gogh also had a damaged mine, so damaged he would end his life by it but along the way he let his pain shout out beauty, in sunflowers, in churches, at night, in corn fields and even in his own version of selfies. I'll never have anywhere near his level of talent at anything but I hope that somewhere in between raising Kiana, and running races, and trying to be helpful in life that I'm expressing pain as hope, making them two sides of the same coin.
Kiana's in 5th grade now and I'm thinking about what junior high and high school would best suit her. Elaine and I keep messing with the house in ways that really there's no point unless you think you're going to be there for a while. The long term thoughts keep getting longer and longer, because maybe, just maybe you start to realize that you're a believer that some of the last things that have entered your life are going to last. I've got about a dozen athletic events between now and my next MRI in early December and I promise to thank life, love and God for them like a true believer.