Look out! I’m “Dangerous”!
The other day, I hung out with Stan, a new “brain buddy”. Stan is 60 (I believe) was diagnosed with a GBM (stage 4 tumor) back in the fall and his wife is expecting their first child this summer. We had lunch and got to know each other a bit. We bonded over a mutual love of astronomy, film, storytelling, family, and dealing with this disease (we don’t really love the disease part). As Stan drove me to my physical therapy appointment, he said something to me that really struck me, he said, “We’re dangerous men, you know that, right?” It took me a second to realize what he was saying and right when I did realize, he confirmed it by saying, “Because we have nothing to fear anymore.” I pondered this thought for a moment and said, “HECK YEAH! WE ARE DANGEROUS, DUDE!” Being seen as a “dangerous man” put me in company with a lot of my heroes throughout history (or at least the way that a lot of people perceived them). People like Jesus, MLK Jr., Nelson Mandela, Moses, Martin Luther, Thomas Jefferson, Soren Kierkegaard, Blaise Pascal, William Wallace, Mark Twain, King Solomon, and of course Han Solo. I think that the one thing that all these men have in common is that they were/are all “fearless”. Although I’d admit that after this revelation of knowing that I was a “dangerous man”, I was tempted to go put on a black suit and sunglasses and rob a jewelry store, my conscience (which I didn’t lose during the surgeries, thankfully) got the better of me. I instead started thinking more about the fact that these people that I have admired for so long became heroes not because they said “Hey, I’m smart and I’m a leader and fearless so you better listen to me!”. Instead they all rose up from a place of personal affliction where they saw their communities (people) being tyrannized and used their natural gifts and experiences (and lead by example) to speak out and lead their people to freedom and that’s what made them fearless, because they knew that they had nothing more to fear. Their leadership was thrust upon them (in a way) and they were up for the task and that’s also something that made them great.
I remembered recently that minutes before my first surgery I told my oldest brother, “Wow, the only thing that I could think of that would be worst than having brain surgery is getting buried alive.” (Pretty morbid, I know) The point being that before that moment, I hadn’t even thought about the fact that I was about to go through one of the things that I feared most in life — and then ironically I ended up going through it TWICE in one month. Once you experience something that you fear, you realize that it was really just “pointless” to fear it in the first place. I say that without the intention of diminishing the feelings and emotions that one experiences while going through the process of confronting fears. I say it with the intention that when you realize the pointlessness of it, you’re really just realizing how strong and capable you actually are. Keep in mind though that anyone that says that you can just tell yourself to “get over it” and that “it’s all in your head” is most likely a shallow and narcissistic person that is completely unaware of the hurt that they have been stuffing down for years themselves (their advice is just the way that they have chosen to personally cope with their own fears and feelings of hurt and frankly I think it’s sad and dysfunctional). I’ll get off my soap box now….but wait — actually — just to add to that diatribe, in a recent interview with Piers Morgan, Michael J. Fox was asked, “What would you say if there’s a young person out there, and just yesterday they found out they have Parkinson’s, what would you say to them?” and Marty Mcfly’s answer was exactly what I’d hope to say to someone newly diagnosed with Brain Cancer…he said, “don’t let others project onto you what you’re experiencing. Experience it, learn as much as you can, educate yourself, don’t project as to what your future will be. Just experience one day at a time and leave yourself open to possibilities and know that others don’t know, others that take care of you, that care about you, might want to say, ‘oh, you feel this and you need to do this and this; They mean well, but be careful not to absorb too much of what they’re telling you…They don’t know how you’re feeling, try to respect and love them for their attention and their care, but just don’t let them characterize what you’re experiencing.”
I believe that there are two things to extrapolate from that statement. First of all, I think he’s saying, don’t ever feel guilty about the cards you’ve been dealt. Do what you know you gotta do. Everyone means well and none of us could even think about battling a disease without our caregivers, but just don’t ever do anything out of obligation (especially at the cost of your health) to them, and be careful what you allow yourself to absorb from the world and the community around you, because even though most people are capable of empathy, you are not capable of putting your head on someone else’s body so that they can actually feel what you’re feeling, so no one will ever be able to actually put themselves in your shoes. Secondly, I think he’s saying don’t lose sight of yourself and who you are on the inside in spite of how the world might view you on the outside. That to me lays the groundwork for being “fearless” or as Stan said, “dangerous”. The irony of being “dangerous” these days, especially in this fast paced media saturated world, is that it’s not so much that you need to be some violent rebel…I think it’s more that you really just need to follow the proverbial wisdoms that have been passed down for millennia. You know, things like “take it one day at a time”, “try to enjoy the moment”, “treat others as you’d like to be treated” or as Han Solo once said while entering a potentially harmful situation, “Here’s where the fun begins”.
There is another MRI coming up on April 18th.