Luck and Attention

I recently had the good fortune of interviewing a long-time friend and fellow Stage 4 cancer patient for my podcast, The Deep Breath. Usually,  the podcast is just me running off at the mouth, dispensing my heavily biased advice or addressing questions that have come up in one way or another. Sometimes I just talk about my personal experience. My best (or at least my own favorite) recordings are those in which I interview someone with a different perspective than my own or from whom I can learn something interesting. This one was different, though, and required a different treatment.

When I think of Mike, I always imagine him as he was in high school. That is mostly due to the fact that I’ve only seen him a scant handful of times over the past 30 years, and none of those were particularly recent. We have stayed in contact primarily because of social media, both of us being part of a wide group of shared friends who have remained more or less civil toward one another even as we have spread apart geographically, politically and, outside of these virtual networks, socially. His story began to intertwine more tightly with my own about a year ago when he announced on Facebook that he had been diagnosed with colon cancer and was about to embark upon an uncertain course of treatment with chemotherapy. 

A few bells went off in my head and our online interaction progressed from clicking on the “thumbs up” button and occasional wisecracks under questionable memes, to sharing concerns or encouraging words or the odd “meaningful” experience. Soon, we bantered about science, talked about family (we both have female progeny about the same age) and mused about the future of medicine. Things seemed to go well for him at first. He remained athletic, his tumors began to shrink. Mike’s absolutely positive approach to his circumstances inspired and impressed me. Then I noticed a difference in what he was posting, the frequency of his treatments, and the increasing reports that his platelet count was too low to allow his infusions. He confided in me that there new concerns, but graciously agreed to participate in my podcast after they had been sorted out.

Which brings us to where we are now, the start of a new year marred with political uncertainty, questions about the future of healthcare and the lumbering behemoth we call the insurance industry, as well as sparks of bright light in the form of evolving medical research, a national directive to better finance the ongoing quest for more and improved cures; this year also begins an optimistic and challenging chapter for my friend as his treatment options shift dramatically in a new direction.

Maybe it was my emotional connection to the interview or just the fact that I really wanted to see my old friend face to face for a change, but I decided that I would record a video of our conversation. Initially, that was just for the source material, which I intended to edit and then release as an audio file like my previous podcasts had been. After all, how interesting could it be to look at the same two faces and essentially nondescript background for whatever ungodly amount of time I let the discussion run? Then I sat down to edit out the dead air, any unfortunate comments I may have made and the usual pops or whistles my recordings are generally full of.

Watching the footage, I changed my mind about the presentation. Instead of chopping out just the good bits and releasing a fifteen-minute chunk of two that made us both sound like infallible giants in the cancer world, I just let it run. There were a few clips that needed to be stitched together and some intermittent banter about how tricky the recording software was behaving which I gladly removed, but otherwise the conversation is intact with its natural flow and, perhaps best of all, the added nuance of facial expression and the deeper meaning that comes from being able to see someone’s eyes.

The video lasts about 90 minutes, a full commitment for an evening at a feature-length run time, but highly worth settling in for if you want to examine just how handsome chemotherapy can make a couple of guys look. Also, it’s worth watching if you are interested in an honest and open discussion about the experience of a surprising diagnosis, the emotional and physical effects of treatment and, specifically, this one very personal approach to the process.

While the full-length video is available for viewing on my Patreon page, I have put a pair of clips here to give you a quick view of my friend and a sample of his story.

Thank you, Mike, for sharing this.


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