When you get blindsided, your first reaction always seems to be, “Why didn’t I see that coming?” But that’s the very definition of being blindsided. That’s why it’s not called frontvisioned. I won’t say finding out I had to go back to square one with my chemotherapy blindsided me per say. I knew it was possible; I just wanted the original “induction” chemo to have done more. What happened next did blindside me. But in a good way.
So after last night’s results told me I had to re-navigate the treacherous waters in the Tropic of Cancer, I slept lousily thinking all the worst possible thoughts of my outcome and woke with a fever, then later a migraine. My family didn’t sleep well either. Something about hearing you have to start over makes you begin to see this in a new light.
My new light is destroying leukemia. I used to think of my disease as a “cute” leukemia but now I’m done with silly games and trying to belittle it. They’ve changed the regimen and the chemistry so as to maximize destruction. Leukemia, you’re going down.
As I was forming my attack plan and the nurses were hanging the many bags onto Ivy, good buddy Chris Farina called and wanted to visit. I was golfing with Chris the morning I got my diagnosis and I often tell disbelieving people I felt that good beforehand. Everyone I’ve spoken with who’s had this disease all say they were sick when diagnosed. I was highly unusual; go figure.
Seeing Chris made me happy. We instantly became friends at the Detroit News; our families have vacationed together and he’s great to just hang out with. When I abruptly left The News for the Free Press, by simply walking down two flights of stairs I always felt like I was abandoning my friends at The News.
Chris and I spoke about how he assumed I’d look a lot worse, to which I absentmindedly rubbed my hand across my almost blank skull. We talked about both our fathers dying of cancer and how this Leukemia just became a bit more of a force to be reckoned with. But we also talked about movies, newspaper gossip and I showed him how www.detnews.com look on my iPad.
Then I got blindsided.
As he was fixing to leave he leaned to one side and whipped out a Detroit News/Media News Group envelope stuffed with something and held together with a large office paper clamp. It took a moment to comprehend what he was handing me but after two, maybe four seconds, the seismic upheavals began in my gut and erupted out of me as full-on tears. The News had taken up a collection for me too, just like the Free Press had. And they had started it way back before even knowing about each other. The Rodney Fund.
I won’t dwell on tears again. They make us feel better and cope easier. But I will say, like the Eskimo words for snow, they break down into many different categories. Today’s were along the Wonderment vein. And speaking of Native Americans, my Aunt Roberta sent along a Navajo cure word from back when she worked as a doctor on the reservation. Chaauh. I like the way it sounds.
Today a fellow Michigan Press Photographer, Doug Tesner, died of cancer. He admittedly smoked too much and lung cancer did him in. I also learned about another colleague who was just diagnosed with colon cancer. Man, it’s not a good run for us shooters. But as my Mom says, within everything we’ve experienced there’s something to be grateful about. John Kaplan, yet another photog with cancer, sent me his amazing video about his battle with the disease. You want to see hope and gratefulness, just check out his story.
But here’s my personal note to the entire Detroit News staff. First of all, thank you so much for your incredible gift. Expenses are popping up in strange, unforeseen places. My cell phone bill is through the roof but due to the kindness of colleagues, we are able to pay for things like that. Second, I know you all worry about what’s next in the journalism business. But take it from me, enjoy the right now and if you have to think about the future, do it positive ways. Don’t ask what you could do to survive, ask what you’ve really always wanted to do, (apart from telling incredible stories). And third, I guess you don’t resent me for leaving on that April morning four years ago.
Mostly though, take a look around you at some of the faces you work with every day on the third and forth floors. Realize that these people are there for you en masse when the chips are down. Even if you can’t believe it — even if you walk out on them with no warning — they will shock you with their kindness and outreach and love.