a few years back i posted a tony hoagland poem, “medicine.” i love tony’s poetry and am grateful to brian newhouse for gifting me one of his books. the poet and his mother both have dealt with crippling illness, so he knows from whence he speaks when he says:
Daydreaming comes easy to the ill:
slowed down to the speed of waiting rooms,
you learn to hang suspended in the wallpaper,
to drift among the magazines and plants,
feeling a strange love
for the time that might be killing you.
i’ve grown so accustomed to doctor’s offices, billing agents, the mountains of paperwork, byzantine insurance policies and more that i’m seriously considering volunteering as a patient support agent, sharing my now-expert knowledge of the workings of the administrative maze that comes with being chronically ill. i find it criminally negligent and offensive that the patient is responsible for overseeing significant parts of communication between care providers and insurance companies. the ill have so much more to worry about. on an average week i spend two or so hours on the phone with medical business – managing my appointments, getting approval for necessary medications and crucial care, and of course fighting bills that shouldn’t exist. i’m sure at this point that my credit rating is torn to shreds – i’ve had a number of bills (though none for awhile) go to collections, nearly all through no fault of my own. i talk to a doctor’s billing office and they say everything is fine, ignore the bills, but two months later i’ll get the mail and discover aggressive and condescending demands for payment. then i call the care provider directly and they say oh, i can’t believe that happened. that shouldn’t happen.
damn right it shouldn’t.
but i digress. this afternoon kathryn and i are headed to my oncologist to hear about the findings of my abdominal and pelvic MRIs. i tend to have a good sense of my body and if the cancer is causing problems, but at the moment i’m feeling as healthy as i have in a long time. granted, i have a mild cold, but that’s actually progress – two years ago, a cold would have sent me to the ER. i’m glad i have a cold.
so i’m not especially concerned this time around, though of course my cancer can always surprise me. i’ve previously described fighting melanoma as similar to punching jello. you attack and say, oh look, it’s gone. but then you look closer only to find that, in fact, it’s still there; it just moved around a bit. it’s remarkable, though, that since my diagnosis, treatments for melanoma have made huge leaps in extending lives and even bringing patients back from the brink of death to live long and (mostly) healthy lives. most of those drugs didn’t exist in any usable form when i had my first surgery – ten years ago, i would have been out of options in 2010. i’ve heard stories of people dying within weeks after discovering their advanced melanoma. obviously, i consider myself very, very lucky. and also obviously, i’m incredibly grateful for all of your support through all of this. i can’t say it enough: thank you.
before i sign off, i wanted to share a recap of the cancercare gala last week. i’m still basking in the satisfaction of a job well done and the remarkable response my remarks garnered – i’m meeting next week to discuss potentially working with a documentary team that’s producing a film about the history of cancer. i’ll tell you more about that after the meeting.
my appointment is at 4:30, so check back in the evening for results.
here’s the recap! there’s also a facebook gallery of photos from the evening here.
The evening’s festivities included both a silent and live auction featuring exclusive, one-of-a-kind items including “Best of New York City” experiences, exotic luxury getaways, designer merchandise, and gourmet food and wine packages.
Actress and CancerCare advocate S. Epatha Merkerson was honored with CancerCare’s “Help & Hope” Award, which was presented by Academy Award-winning actress Whoopi Goldberg. Merkerson, best known for her role on the long-running NBC series “Law & Order,” is a longtime advocate for lung cancer research and awareness. Her “Law & Order” character, Lt. Anita Van Buren, notably faced a cervical cancer diagnosis in the drama’s final season, bringing awareness to women coping with the diagnosis.
CancerCare client Jonah Eller-Isaacs was also honored during the evening, taking the stage to deliver a moving account of how CancerCare helped him cope with a diagnosis of stage IV melanoma at age 28. Jonah said:
Every time I’ve felt overwhelmed…CancerCare has been there. They’ve done so much more than help me cope – they’ve helped me develop lasting tools to manage the heavy burden of my diagnosis. My counselor, Sarah Kelly, has taught me not only how to deal with my illness, but how to be a better, stronger version of myself.
Learn more about Jonah, and read his speech in its entirety, on Jonah’s blog, GROINSTRONG.
The evening also featured a moving video of three CancerCare clients sharing their stories of how CancerCare helped them cope with their diagnoses:
View a photo gallery from the 2012 Annual Spring Gala on our Facebook page.
CancerCare sincerely thanks all of our supporters and sponsors who helped make this year’s Gala such a success!