Wednesday, January 31, 2007

You Can Pick Your Friends...

"Come here..."


"You've got something on your nose."

"Huh? Oh, okay"

"Come here, I think it's frosting or something..."

"Uh, dude. That was a booger. You just picked my nose."

Thursday, January 25, 2007

A La Recherche du Temps Perdu, Deux

People always ask about how cancer changed me. Often, they expect me to have some sort of great insight into the meaning of life. I resent that. When I read Alice Trillin's comment about maintaining one’s own identity (see post below) it resonated. Cancer made me more me. In a good way. In a “that which does not kill me” kind of way. Literally.

When people told, or tell me, I am a hero, I don’t get it. There’s nothing heroic about surviving. You’re given a choice. Do this and live, don’t do this and die. Um, life please. If anything, the heroism is in saying enough is enough. I’m lucky. I got through it in one try. I haven’t had a recurrence. I never had to face the alternative. No one ever told me, “it’s not working.” Just the same, I think, when people tell me I’m their hero they are referring to the way in which I faced it. I got on with business. To me, there was no other way. A do or do not situation.

My uncle, when he found out I’d been successfully treated (never say cured, one is not cured of cancer), told me I’d “done it.” I stared down death and won. He said I had nothing to fear for the rest of my life. He’s overly dramatic and terrified of death, but I think I understand what he meant by that. I’ve proven my mettle. That’s what I take with me. I know I can face challenges and, when given the proper tools, overcome them. I’ve done it over and over again. I’ll continue to do it. And so I am not “changed.” There is no grand realization that causes me to renounce this material world. If anything, I am emboldened to go forth and conquer. Hell, I’ve done it once, might as well do it again.

Must be January— I promise lighter fair will return with the sun. I’m a bit like Persephone these days…

A La Recherche du Temps Perdu

This morning was a good one. I had errands to run for work and thus was out of the office until noon. The first store I needed to hit didn’t open until 10, so I got to have a lazy morning and even had time to drop off my dry cleaning (when I’ll have enough extra cash to pick it up is another story, but I digress). So, out and about was I. Canal Rubber (yes, I had to go to the rubber store for work. Quit laughing) for cording, Bloomingdale’s SoHo for soaps and lotion (ha ha, rubbers and lotion, get your mind out of the gutter), and finally Bed, Bath, and Beyond for guest towels (yup, rubbers, lotion and guest towels. ALL for legitimate purposes, I swear).

Anyway, at Bloomingdale’s I sampled the various lotions and potions and sprays. Some Jo Malone here, a little Molton Brown there topped off with bit of La Mer.

Off I go, traipsing along Broadway to the uptown F train. All of a sudden I’m hit with a whiff. A scent. A memory. I know what it is, but I can’t place it And then it hit me. Somehow, someway the lotions and potions combined with my own special Ryanness to produce the exact scent of CHOP. Specifically floor 7 East. So yes, today I am wandering around smelling exactly like the pediatric oncology ward at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. And I kind of like it. No, I do like it. I’m nostalgic. That’s where I spent my freshman year of high school. And now, some 14 years later (shit, that long ago?), I don’t remember the pain and fear I remember the fun and the good times. From the sublime to the ridiculous I suppose.

I read recently that “the measure of how you [hold] up in the face of a life-threatening illness [is] not how much you changed but how much you stayed the same, in control of your own identity.” I agree. It did not change me, it solidified me. Cancer took my good qualities and made them better. Those same qualities which branded me as an outcast in school and amongst my peers were the ones that best enabled me to survive and are now those which allow me to thrive.

You can keep your Madeleines. Give me the feint antiseptic smell of 7E any day.