From October 2, 2019
Hi Friends --
Hello from the front lines of Foxy 7.0. I wonder: Do her fighter jets get smarter in hitting her targets each time they're unleashed? Or is each round kind of its own story, hitting and sometimes missing, and who knows what else. We'll never know (although I bet Dr. C knows and maybe she doesn't tell me *everything* when I have my time with her every other week).
But what we do know is some encouraging news from this morning. Remember our new favorite number? The CEA? When last we checked, it was at an encouraging 48 (down from an original, and horrifying, 325). Dr C warned from here on out to not expect dramatic drops. "This will become more subtle and maybe even plateau a bit looking ahead." Mmm hmm. With that warning in mind, this morning I opened up my test results to the absolutely fabulous number 23. Who knew 23 could be such a terrific number. I mean, is there a baseball player who famously wore 23? I doubt it. Maybe someone can google 23 and important NFL players and we can side bar on that at some point. For now, 23 is all me. Oh and did I mention the road from 325 to 23 is in fact a 94% drop? Who doesn't love percentages.
Other notes -- Dr. C decided to slightly dial down both Oxy and Foxy this week out of concern about neuropathy and potential nerve damage. The lovely upside here is that I'm not quite as sluggish today as I normally feel on Foxy Wednesdays. We'll take that micro perk.
And now a brief postcard from my time away in DC and Austin during my week off from the current ballyhoo. Each day was full of a multitude of small and gobsmacking miracle moments, the bulk of which happened inside the most glorious conversations with dear friends who have drawn so very close to me as I've begun my mountain climb.
But perhaps the most important, and revelatory, moment came this past Saturday, when I was down at TribFest in Austin (a big conference where folks come throughout the country to grapple with the most important priorities of our day). Through my work with Emerson Collective, we arranged to have a panel discussion on systemic gun violence in Chicago called CRED (visit chicagocred.org to learn more). Arne Duncan developed this work, which really hinges on this question: "What if the guys who are responsible for the bulk of the gun violence in Chicago aren't actually the problem? If fact, what if they are the solution?"
CRED's approach involves all kinds of smart program designs. They recruit former gang members to leave the street economy, and pivot to the good work of stepping into the legal economy. This involves a mix of trauma care, academic mentoring, life coaching, job skills training, you name it.
Anyhow, Arne was joined by one our life coaches, Bilaal, and two former gang members -- Antonio and Tarik. And now to the moment. At one point Arne asked Antonio and Tarik how many people close to them have been shot and killed since they were young kids. Each one estimated 30 or so people. The audience groaned in shock.
And then Arne asked what part of CRED has made the biggest difference. Tarik simply said this: "You know, it's all great. But honestly it's the love. The love that my new community is giving me, and especially my life coach. Now I have relationships I can depend on. It's the love. I never had that before."
And as I listened to Tarik, all I could think was of course that he and Antonio are climbing an even taller mountain than I am, but our trails are eerily full of shared themes. Yes, my program (Foxy and eventually surgery) is crucial. But what sustains me, what is making me new and forever changed, is the love I'm receiving through each step. That's the element on the road to a cure that will endure on the other side of scans, and side effects, and fear, and time on the couch, and Dr C check ins. It's the source of whatever courage I have for each switchback, twist, and turn.
Cancer will transform me, forever. This is obvious, and not a new insight. But it's new for me, in the same way that it's new for Tarik. The love he now receives is why he can mourn the loss of 30 friends, steadily move through the terrible, and then discover new sources of beauty that might, just might, create a new story for him, and ultimately Chicago.
And it's why our views from the mountain are so important. We just have to pause, survey, squint out to the horizon, mourn what we've lost, discover the new, receive this profound love, and say, with full hearts, thank you.
ps -- a pic with me, Bilaal, Tarik, and Antonio attached!