I got to give the speech that I referenced here yesterday evening. I talked about those awesomely awkward first kisses... someone even caught my duck face that is how I start kisses (this may explain many many things). I tried to use that as a connection point that the first set of medical appointments but how it wore out a little bit of my spirit to sit through a lot of bad firsts that I started to taking too many things and my last. While I handled those intensely and that was commended, between that approach and memory issues, I was missing life because to see things as your last chances there's less desire and capacity to pay attention about learning. As always there a few jokes along the way and I think they were laughing with me, not at me... right? right?!?
I talked about a girl who was the first, honestly the only, girl who kind of resparked an appreciation of some new firsts. Perhaps it was because the romance started shortly after a stable MRI, perhaps because she is an actual writer in her own right (much better than these ramblings on one of those real websites), perhaps because she had heard of me before through the internet and wasn't so convinced that the idea of me needed to be as polished and was nice enough to the actual me, I don't know but I fell for her. She is absolutely the girl who I wish I'd asked and gotten a yes to my old fashioned way of getting a girlfriend for the first time since high school. With that said by any modern standard though it was never done in that official way, if I am honest with others and the man in the mirror, she absolutely was the first and only girlfriend since high school. I'm sure she's too polite or modest to think of it that way but somewhere she figured out she was out of my league and unlike the majority of George Clooney girls, this girl was the one who realized it was better for her to keep her life without us being together. I've tried to figure out how she opened up things in me that I barely knew existed but I just accepted that she is one of those people who bring life to life, who give hope a new ring. It was a good bridge for me to start appreciating firsts again as a place to learn. I think she realized her place in life was better with her on her own path and while there's no bad blood, I honestly don't think we'll ever be actual friends since, for me at least, that might be lonelier. Anyone who thinks I shared this much detail at last night's event thinks there's even more wrong with my brain than there is since that was a room full of strangers and only my friends read this blog ;).
Still, the event itself was great. It was actually 5 of us speaking with someone sharing about their first time to first base (actual fist base in softball), another sharing about their first time in Indonesia, I was 3rd and shared about how bad I am at first kisses. Oddly enough while I was introduced as a good running dad (and I love both those aspects of my identity, neither of those made my story much. The last two speakers spoke about the parent child relationship or the child parent relationship. The reason we have 5 different speakers is because there's so many different types of people and different types of stories. The old idea, taken from a film oddly enough, that there are millions of people in the world but none of those are people is an extra. We're all the leads of our own stories.
I imagine different ones spoke to others at various level but the one that struck with me was the person after me, who talked about their first cigarette alone, their first cigarette with their mother who once had discouraged her to not follow in her footsteps, her mother's diagnosis with lung cancer and her literally being there with her mom on her deathbed, facilitating her smoking on the way out. It was an incredibly human story about connections with faults from someone who was there and caused your beginning and you were there for them till their very end.
I actually love story telling events though most of the ones I can relate to are ones told at parties or at meals not at formal story telling events. But the human soul is alway a story teller, even when the rest of our system is shuts down the human mind stays up all night telling itself stories. Perhaps, it was in thinking about a girl so much as I got ready for this speech, perhaps because I went to go see the musical Hairspray for the first time recently, the last couple of nights I'd been dreaming of myself singing. The first time it was cross country music (I'm not sure whether it would be me or the audience who should consider that more of a nightmare). The second time it was me singing to her in Grease. You know it was interesting to realize that John Travolta was in both Hairspray and Grease but the line perhaps that maybe I should have stolen outright about firsts and last that when I got cancer I thought it was the end but it turned out to just be the beginning.
Still, this week, like far too many weeks of my life, I watched someone die of cancer. There are times, many times, where I think about bowing out of being the cancer guy. Sometimes it's because I'm tired of the reminder of what's likely going to be my death. But most of the time, by and large, its because this journey has caused me to meet a ridiculous amount of good people dying of cancer. There have been many cancers but it has been those with with brain cancer, especially those who are younger than me and each of them has had more potential than I could dream of, being robbed not just of life but of youth being exhausting and never recovering. That was one of those kind of deaths this week... Because of sharing my story, other have shared theirs with me but because of the connection point, I've watched more people die in the last 2.5 years than I ever expected to have happen. Let's just say this week, I flipped more tires that day and threw spears harder and carried a bucket longer than I had in a while. And then I went and downloaded a song from Hairspray and realize as long as there's a need and I can help in anyway, I should not, cannot bow out. While the song there is about race, there is a distinct echo in the human spirit about things not being fair due to biology we so often had no say in the matter that keeps us believing that while death may be inevitable and perfection may not be achievable, we still haven't found the better way.
There's a road
We've been travelin'
Lost so many on the way
But the riches
Will be plenty
Worth the price
The price we had to pay
'Cause just to sit still
Would be a sin
So that's what keeps me going because I know where I've been. This is a far broader approach to life than just cancer or first kisses but those are the ones life has currently handed me to learn to be better at.
There's some rest spots on the way though I'm not much good for being a bum or taking break. I head to New Hampshire tomorrow. But before I do there's a meeting for the BrainPower5k at my house (if you can find it in your heart and in your pocket to donate, please do so here). And when I arrive I meet with a Livestrong friend who survived cancer but buried his wife from it. And then I head to go rock climbing with some other cancer survivors. There are many many times I miss the concept of me, the guy who never had cancer, whose brain didn't have gaps. And there are times where I find that escape in being Kiana's dad, plenty where running is the therapy but I've never done a trip like this but I hope, I hope that in the longest time I've been only with cancer survivors continuously, you find a slight respite in being oddly normal because even we know to keep going because we know where we've been. I think the legs may well need a rest from racing a few weeks before I turn 35 but I am not the kind of guy that can sit on the beach so my vacation will be trying to go up rocks with friends ahead of me, besides, and waiting to catch me if something goes wrong. The way I'm dreaming that up, my vacation sounds like my life.
There are people who choose to believe that where we're at is where we're supposed to be. I don't believe that and find it a bit off putting because that suggests things like choices are irrelevant if whatever you got right or wrong leads you to where you're supposed to be. I take responsibility for my choices that got to me where I've been. But I am also dealing with a cancer that has no known dietary, genetic, lifestyle or environmental connections. So I will try to keep appreciating, keep dreaming both in the night and day (is it more likely that I am going to be singing and proposing to girls two days in a row in my dreams or in real life?). But I hope I keep moving.
There's a dream, yeah, in the future
There's a struggle that we have yet to win
Use that pride in our hearts to life us up to tomorrow
'Cause to sit still would be a sin