Keep Moving Forward
During this holiday week, no matter what your traditions, I hope you have A moment to cherish THE moment. The beauty of the holidays for me is a chance to slow down, think more, and appreciate.
I am frequently struck by the sheer power of optimism, fearlessness, and love. And, I have been truly touched by people who have told me that they ARE reading this blog, deriving strength from Jen’s original posts as well as the new ideas and stories we are sharing here to honor the original purpose of one of Jen’s many creations, You Fearless.
At this very special time of the year, I am particularly honored to share the following post from Andrew Stern, who was friends with Dave in business school and met Jen through him. Coincidentally, Andrew’s wife knew Jen in college. As Andrew puts it, Dave and Jen “have both been an inspiration to us at various points in our lives. In particular they really leapt into action when I was first diagnosed.” He went on to say, “I found out only later that Jen had just been told she was having what turned out to be her final relapse. At the time you wouldn't imagine they had anything more important than helping me to cope with my own diagnosis.” As so many of us know, Jen was always helping people, trying to put them in touch with folks who could help them – from cancer to careers and beyond. Jen was a connector – deeply committed to helping people find other people who could help.
This blog continues to be a connector – putting people together to inspire each other. I encourage you to share stories here by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org because from this community comes strength, and your fearless story may be the one that inspires someone to fight that much harder, to have that much less fear, and to simply enjoy life. I hope you will embrace the opportunity to be a part of You Fearless.
From Andrew Stern:
“I don’t think of myself as fearless. I am scared of heights. I’m scared of clerks in fancy stores and old people driving at night. I’m scared of terrorists with dirty bombs. I’m scared to know about all the nasty things in the food I eat, and the air I breathe. I’m scared that I’ll bike over a patch of grease in the road and crash. I’m terrified that one day airplanes are going to fall straight down because, come on: they are giant tubes made of metal that should not float in the air. But sitting in the leather chair of my doctor’s office last July, hearing for the first time that I had cancer, I didn’t have the inclination, or perhaps the luxury, to be afraid. I was upset that it was happening to me, mostly. I had projects going on at home and at work, which did not involve time off for hospitals and procedures whose names had only vague meanings to me: Chemotherapy. Radiation. Stem-cell transplants. I had better things to do. I was uncertain about how my life would change, and what ordeals I would have to endure. Fear just wasn’t high on the list of my emotions.
My family doctor was a genial old man; in my head it’s hard to separate him from the muppet version of him that would presumably be used in the movie of my life. He had a bushy white moustache and bushy white hair neatly confined to the sides of his head, and he padded around between his yellowed, obsolete-looking exam room and the overstuffed office of his little private practice in well-worn patterns. He had a collection of duck decoys on shelves behind his desk.
I looked at the ducks and listened to the words he was saying and waited for them to sink in. Of course, the words he used at first were medical euphemisms, vague in their specificity. I had lesions, they were caused by a blood condition called multiple myeloma, which triggered my platelets to multiply abnormally. “I’m sorry to interrupt you,” I finally had to say, “but just to be clear: you are saying that I have cancer, right? This condition is a form of cancer?” He was; it is.
Later on, I found a few things to be afraid of, most of which never came to pass. When told that the cancer was in my bone marrow, I pictured myself undergoing some kind of bone-marrow transplant like Hugh Jackman’s bone implant scene in Wolverine, and silently braced myself for it. As it turns out, actual bone-marrow transplants – cracking open the bones and physically scraping out the marrow – are very rarely performed anymore, and never for my particular type of cancer. I was afraid of becoming feeble, of losing my hair or my teeth or my wits, but none of the treatments seem to do that to me for whatever reason. I just get a bit tired and, according to my wife, a bit irritable.
There were a few things I should have been afraid of but was too preoccupied or too uninformed to dwell on. The first oncologist I saw, who agreed to see me at 6pm the day I was diagnosed, had me lie down on an exam table in his office to take a bone marrow biopsy. I have since learned that this procedure is one of three things which the medical profession generally considers a “10” on the 1-10 pain scale (the others are natural childbirth and pancreatitis, in case it ever comes up in a game of Trivial Pursuit). At the time it was the least of my concerns, and it was over soon enough. I should have been concerned that I would not respond to the new, highly-targeted drugs which can keep the disease in remission for decades. But I planned for success, and success is what I’ve gotten so far.
Sometimes I let myself get angry; it seems unfair that this should happen to me although, honestly, it’s not clear what would make anyone more or less deserving. I let myself cry one night – but only one night – out of pure frustration, powerlessness, and rage. But fear has never seemed like an appropriate reaction. I’ll save my fear for things that are really scary, like those planes in the sky. Funny thing, though: the reason they stay up there is that they keep moving forward.” -Andrew Stern
Thank you for sharing so fearlessly, Andrew! Wishing everyone all the best during this holiday season, Janet