It’s Good to See the Good

When times of tragedy hit us, it’s easy to think that the world is out to get us or that the world is being overtaken by “evil” (or going to sh**). For the sake of avoiding a potentially heated debate, let’s just assume that none of that is true. In my experience this year, I have been overwhelmed by the good that the world has to offer…more specifically, the good that people have to offer. I don’t know about you, but I like answers. I want to know WHY someone does something or WHY something happens or WHY I got Cancer or WHY there is so much injustice in the world. That last point there, struck me like an Ali right hook this week. I asked myself why do I care so much about this amorphous idea of justice? I don’t have an answer yet, all I know is that I do care and that most of us do as well.

I talked with my surgeon Dr. Yang this week and I asked him why he chose “brain tumors?”. He said that he just found them to be so “unjust” and wanted to do what he could do with the special skills he’s gained through his medical training to fight back. When he first broke into the field he noticed that the entire medical system pretty much took a fatalistic and almost nihilistic view towards Brain Cancer and he was very discouraged. He now believes that it is within our grasp to make Brain Cancer a chronic illness instead of a terminal illness and it is all about approach and attitude. It’s his passion (and now mine as well) to see this approach permeate the entire medical community so that it can become the norm. When I first met Dr. Yang, I was already admitted to the hospital. As he entered the room and before he introduced himself to me, he asked me, “Are you ready to fight?” I said “yes!”, not really sure the specifics of what I was agreeing to. When I meet other Brain Cancer patients they always talk about how “You ready to fight?” has a very abstract meaning and that none of us have any idea what it actually means. On behalf of my fellow brain buddies, I asked Dr. Yang what it means “to fight”? I liked his answer a lot, because it framed it in a way that went against my initial understanding. “Focus on quality of life and give it everything you got” he said, “Conventional treatments, diet, exercise, community, love, gratitude, meditation, prayer, faith, eastern medicine, lots of rest, hydration, stress management, therapy, and most importantly bind it with HOPE.” There’s that word I love so much. Yang continued, “There isn’t hard data to prove it but there is plenty of empirical evidence to suggest that it’s certainly a strong battle plan.” To me what he was saying is that fighting isn’t an action, it’s a mindset. I think that’s what all my brain buddies get hung up on. Of course the mindset will translate into action but too often we jump to action without first focusing on our mindset and allowing our minds to permeate our very being.

Seeing the good in everything and everyone is the very essence of HOPE (this isn’t naive idealism…anyone that thinks it is can shove it). I will say though that an important clarifier is that seeing the good doesn’t mean you stop being vigilant. It simply means you don’t live your life as if resigned to inevitability. That attitude has a name, it’s called fatalism. Read some history books to see where that attitude gets you. I’m finding Hope is the key to living a fearless life. If you live a life void of hope then everything and everyone is out to get you and you don’t have the insight or resources to even create an effective battle plan. I’m grateful for the people I have around me that continue to live in hope with me and even more so for the people who have lost someone to Brain Cancer that inspire me as they continue to live in hope in spite of their loss. There will be a day very soon like Dr. Yang says when Brain Cancer will be a chronic illness like Diabetes (and perhaps even curable) and when that day comes, we’ll all finally truly understand what it means to “fight”.

I guarantee that anyone who might think this sentiment is too “limp-wristed” has never tried it.

Much Love,

Alex

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