Yesterday was Easter. Today I am in the chair at the infusion center, watching a steady drip work its way into my arm. At some point over the next few days I will likely be scheduling an “exit interview” with a friend who is going to die from his cancer within the coming weeks. There is an interesting, perhaps timely mix of metaphor in all this. The holiday, for those who celebrate its religious significance, is about spiritual rebirth (and literal rebirth for the more fundamentalist among us). I look at these chemicals entering my bloodstream right now as agents of my own rebirth, my second chance at life for as long as it may last, a chance to try and get some things right while I am here. And my friend’s impending death is a reminder that, even with the best of science and consistent faith, these days do come to an end for us all, whether we are ready or not.
Michael March as been, as far as I can tell, a solid Christian and a man of reason. He chose to evaluate all available treatment options, pursuing even the difficult ones when they offered a clear explanation of potential outcomes backed by decades of studies and documented successes. For eight years, he has dealt with various cancers, outliving each prognosis because of committing to his treatments. But at each stage, from diagnosis to remission to reoccurrence, he has been forced to examine his own mortality and come to peace with the idea that he may not see another birthday or Christmas or, as is now the case, another Easter. This was his final celebration of his faith’s Resurrection Story. For Michael, there is a definite end to this existence as we know it, and he is facing it with the determination of ensuring a positive legacy.
While Michael works diligently to complete the foundation of his foundation, in spite of the few hours that he has each day when not asleep, I find in him my own inspiration to continue each day as an opportunity to build upon the last, for the last. Whether it is a chance to educate, provoke thought, spread awareness, or simply increase the level of joy in a person’s life, I try to remain conscious of how my actions now may have a lasting effect on the people I encounter through this existence. For me, this is how I hope to continue “being here” even when I am gone, as I imagine at some point we all do.
But I take this time today, the peaceful hour or so that I sit in my assigned room watching the silent drip pass from bag to tube to vein, to meditate on the meaning of my own life, this proverbial resurrection, the opportunity that I have now due to the spectacular advances in science we are witnessing today. It truly does seem like a miracle when the rate of these advances are considered. A decade or two ago, my options would have been much more limited and much less successful. Now, every week brings the promise of new treatments, better options, even possible cures. I’m stricken with a profound appreciation of all the patients who came before me, the data that was accrued from their experiences, especially the many who volunteered for experimental treatments or endured the early tests of chemotherapies that had yet to be proven — without them, doctors would never have been able to discover what the tolerable and effective doses should be, enabling patients now to greatly outlive their predecessors with fewer side-effects and a much greater quality of life. I “should” have been dead by now, but I harbor the hope that in the near future I’ll be able to return to my previous normal. And I have faith in the science that has given me the opportunity to still be here today, that it will offer me new and even better solutions before the treatment I am currently on stops working.
I wish for everyone, regardless of faith or religious affiliation, that these notions of rebirth and second chances are considered in personal ways. We all have matters to face, relationships that we want to better, quality of life issues, goals, agendas, and things that we have been putting off for way too long. Easter might seem like a great opportunity for brunch on the surface, and it can be that, but the themes that run through the holiday can also be so much more.
Addendum: When I wrote this post, I had not yet learned that Michael March had died, ironically, on Easter morning. I am sure that he would have found some humor in the timing, or a deep satisfaction in sharing that day associated with resurrection. At the very least, it is good to know that, while he had been dealing with pain and discomfort prior, he died in peace and comfort at home.
We were unable to arrange our official “Exit Interview,” but I’ve given a brief approximation through his own words that I hope will enhance his message.
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