I’ve been lucky.
I haven’t spent time in hospitals, on phone lines, waiting on test results.
Cancer hasn’t made me stand at a gravesite, hold an urn. It’s been an abstract idea to me—a scientific problem, a thing to be fixed.
The smell of a hospital isn’t an old memory.
I signed up for the Light the Night Walk months ago–I’d just begun blogging, using a pseudonym, and, you know, why not? I was spouting all this lofty stuff (albeit to approximately five readers) about how atheists were good without gods, and wasn’t it time I got involved in godless fundraising?
A couple weeks later I got a packet of materials, which promptly disappeared into the whirlwind of my dorm room, because fundraising is hard, and apparently the $200 I wanted to raise was just going to spring out of thin air. How’s that for rational thinking?
I’m not entirely sure what I thought I was getting into. Maybe I’d put in a few words and write a blog or two and then hang out with my friends while we felt congratulatory and walked around a nice park.
In August, I started as the communications intern for Foundation Beyond Belief, the organization partnering with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to make Light the Night happen. Part of my responsibilities included transcribing videos in support of the Walk, and eyeing blog posts by supporters…and suddenly Light the Night wasn’t a feel-good social venture.
There’s something powerful about listening to Miriam Jerris talk about the suffering of her friend–something in the way she smiles when the happy conclusion comes–when the LLS steps in and covers the chemotherapy copay. I watched it over and over again, trying to catch every word and piece of punctuation, trying to make sure the transcript caught how she paused and emphasized and parsed. I can almost say it along with her now.
And about two months after that [pause, half-inhale], the multiple myeloma came back, [her forehead wrinkles at the memory] and he was a very sick man indeed. In fact, they told him to go home and say goodbye to his family.
Then there’s this brilliant, clear, passionate post from Debbie Goddard:
I was tweeting playfully about my recent Lyme disease diagnosis (third time!) and how glad I was to catch it before getting Bell’s palsy (because this guy’s face gives me the willies. It’s the eyes.). Elyse (who recently had a tumor removed from her stomach) and Sarah Moglia (who had some bowels removed a couple weeks ago and is in a ton of pain) sent well-wishes my way. Then it hit me. I thought, Wow, all I need to do is take a round of antibiotics and I’m good! It’s not cancer. It doesn’t involve my GI tract. It probably won’t affect the rest of my life. I don’t have to worry about dying from this. Waking up with a drooping face one morning wouldn’t be easy, but…cancer. I thought about being young and having cancer.
So I’ll say it again–something I wouldn’t have thought through without Light the Night–I’m lucky. Lucky cancer hasn’t poked holes in my life, but luckier still to be involved in this project.
Fun disclaimers and informational linketies!
1) I wrote this because I wanted to, because it was important to me, not as part of my internship responsibilities. That being said, interning at Foundation Beyond Belief is spectacular, and you should give it a try! (Positions open several times a year–the next being in winter.)
2) You can join a walk, start your own, or contribute to the effort here. The teams with the best fundraising get cashmoney, and the Stiefel Freethought Foundation will be matching the contributions up to $500,000. Really, you want to be part of this.