A Writer’s Book of Days (09/01) – “Even the lightning spoke well of them” (after W.S. Merwin)
I’ve reread the writing prompt six times now, and each time I’m more baffled than the one before. I finally looked up the poem, “The Broken,” and I can’t decide if it’s about spiders or about clouds. Perhaps it’s about both.
Reading intensely into others’ writing was never my forte. Metaphors and deeper meanings often go straight over my head, a weakness that impacted my overall performance in the critical reading class I was required to take in college. My professor was a poet and novelist, and my papers were mostly returned covered in red ink, implying I didn’t fully understand what Maya Angelou or Salman Rushdie was trying to say. “You take things too literally,” she told me. I was trying my hardest, yet the steady stream of Bs and Cs deflated me.
The next poem we read was about New York City. I don’t remember what it was about, but I decided to spout some nonsense about it in the related paper. It took me all of five minutes, unlike my carefully crafted papers preceding it. The words that flowed from my pen were utter fluff. One bit I wrote went something like this: “The subway is Manhattan’s lifeblood, pumping through the veins of the dark tunnels, and the commuters are the cells. New York City would die without them.” I groaned. My head hurt. I wanted to gag myself with my Papermate. I didn’t believe a word of what I was writing.
The next day, she placed the paper in front of me on my desk. The bright, red ink across the paper screamed, “YES! YES! YES! I KNEW YOU COULD DO IT. ”
I finally received an A+.
I hated what I wrote, and I was rewarded for it.
For the past 1,000 days, I participated in Day Zero’s 101 Day Project, a unique challenge that inspires you to set and achieve your personal goals in life. My friend Caitlin had started one, and I was intrigued. At that point, I had been in five years’ remission from cancer and was basically a lump when it came to goal setting. The diagnosis had resulted in my having a hard time looking in the future, as I got in the mindset of “Well, anything can change quickly.” I thought that starting the list would be better than a so-called bucket list in inspiring me to look forward again. (And I’d just beaten cancer… why would I want to think about kicking the bucket?)
The challenge runs 1,001 days—I started September 12, 2010 and ended today, June 9, 2013. To count, tasks must be specific with a defined result that represents some amount of work on my part. Here’s a summary of my first list and what happened. Bolded items are ones that were completed. Not bad for my first try, with 54 of 101 goals achieved. I start Part II tomorrow, and will aim for 75 next.
This week, I returned from Stupid Cancer’s sixth annual OMG 2103 Cancer Summit for Young Adults, a nearly four-day conference for young adult cancer patients, survivors, caregivers, professionals, and advocates. It’s the fourth year in a row I’ve attended this amazing conference, which began in New York City but has been held in Las Vegas for the past two years. Before you think this is some boring oncology event, think again. Here are 10 reasons why you should attend an OMG Summit:
1) People understand what you’re going through – You can drop words like neutropenia, stenosis, and metastasis without people asking you what they mean. No one cares if you have to zonk out in the middle of the day or can’t drink. You’re not the only one having a hard time losing weight, growing hair, or trying to find your way again after cancer. We’ve all gone through a lot and can relate with each other, share what we’ve learned, and make the whole crazy cancer and survivorship ride a little easier for each other.
2) You won’t be judged or pitied – No one cares that you have one testicle, no nipples, a bald head, a red scar snaking across your chest, or walk with a cane. We all have our battle scars. And it’s nice to finally say, “I have/had cancer” without someone giving you the pitiful “Awww, you’re too young… my cat has cancer too” spiel.
3) You’ll learn something new – With 25 breakout sessions and 50 speakers covering myriad topics for patients, survivors, and caregivers, you’ll arm yourself with plenty of knowledge, no matter if you’re newly diagnosed or 10 years out of treatment. From sex to survivorship, environment to insurance, and fundraising to fertility, there’s something for everyone. Many of the sessions are repeated so you don’t miss out on vital information. The speakers are not only top healthcare professionals, but advocates, caregivers, and survivors. Click here to see the panelists from OMG 2013.
4) You’ll be entertained – This isn’t your grandfather’s oncology conference. One of the biggest problems adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer patients and survivors have is age-appropriate support. But the OMG Summit changes all of that, delivering what could have been ho-hum information with straightforwardness and humor. For instance, OMG 2013 closed out with a comedic routine by Dr. Zubin “ZDoggMD” Damania, who in his own words mashes “medicine, music, and madness to educate and entertain.” We also watched the First Descents documentary Out Living It, played Re-Mission 2 at HopeLab‘s exhibitor booth, and watched as Stupid Cancer presented filmmaker Andrew Jenks of MTV’s “World of Jenks” with its Social Impact Award. And there was plenty of time to dance.
5) You’ll hear the latest on the AYA advocacy and research front – Top doctors, oncologists, healthcare pros, and non-profits are on hand to talk about rapidly changing AYA advocacy and research. (I have to say, I felt pretty darn smart coming out of sessions after learning about genomics and neurospychology.) Most sessions end with a Q&A period, allowing them to answer your burning questions on topics that run the gamut: treatments, late effects, sexuality, complementary medicine, carcinogens in the environment, and more. Plenary sessions focused on genetic breakthroughs and personalized medicine, as well as progress in AYA research and AYA clinics.
6) You’ll meet people working hard to make sure the AYA voice is heard – You’ll never meet a group of more dedicated folks than the employees and volunteers of Stupid Cancer and all of the non-profit and advocacy groups that attend and exhibit at the conference. With young adults accounting for 72,000 new cancer diagnoses each year, it’s critical that the medical community understands our needs from treatment to survivorship and beyond.
7) You’ll be inspired – There are so many inspiring people contributing to the AYA cancer community, from starting non-profits to running marathons and embroidering hats to granting cancer patients and survivors dream days. If you have no clue how to get involved, you’ll find plenty of ideas at the OMG Summit.
8) You’ll laugh and cry – Where else can you be telling someone a cancer joke one minute and then crying over shared experiences the next? Once and a while you’ll even get thrown a curveball, like a surprise marriage proposal. Plenty of tissues are provided. (And alcohol for those who need it.)
9) You’ll learn to get busy living again – The OMG Summit is not for people who want to stay in bed all day and cry, “Woe is me.” It’s about not letting cancer rule your life and giving it the bird. Sometimes you need a little help, and everyone in attendance is there to give you ideas and support to make that step.
10) You’ll make friends for life – If there’s anything positive that comes out of cancer, it’s the amazing, supporting, fun friends you make—a rapport that lasts well beyond the walls of the OMG Summit.
If you missed OMG 2013 this year, you can still attend the OMG2013/East one-day conference in New York City on September 28. It’s a bit more intimate that the annual event, but has the same, great purpose and people. Hope to see you there!
Today, I found out that Sarah Thorp Acton—a former Fordham classmate and fellow editor at The Ram—died during a trip with her charter school students to Costa Rica. They haven’t figured out the cause of death yet, but it was sudden, and she was only 31.
I first met Sarah in 2001, when she was the newspaper’s news editor and I’d just joined the staff as a writer. She was instrumental in teaching me the ways of the newspaper, encouraging my growth, and giving constructive criticism I needed to better myself as a writer. She was one of the sweetest, gentlest people you’d ever meet—I can’t think of one person who didn’t like her. I will always remember her fondness for baking—I loved reading Facebook to see what creative cupcake she came up with next—and her love for pugs.
From what I’ve read online, she’s touched so many people in her life, especially her students at Buffalo’s Tapestry Charter School. Their comments and memories are truly heartwarming.
Rest in peace, Sarah. You were a good soul taken too soon.
Tonight, I was reiterating a story I read on Buzzfeed to Alex: A man left his iPad on a plane, and when he realized it was missing, it was no longer on the plane. In short, the woman who stole the iPad started taking self-photos with the device, which automatically uploaded to the Apple iCloud. Now the man knows what the thief looks like and hopes the collective power of the Internet can identify the culprit. Read more: Selfies Of iPad Thief Delight Original Owner And Rest Of Internet.
I’d gotten no further than telling Alex, “A man left his iPad on a plane, and when he realized it was missing, it was no longer on the plane,” when Alex replied. “So what? They get tossed out all the time. Don’t leave it on a plane if you want it.”
I was taken by surprise, and asked him why he’d be so laid back about losing an iPad.
“They’re worthless,” he said. This, from one of Apple’s original fan boys?
“But you don’t realize why this story’s funny,” I said. “The person who jacked the iPad keeps taking selfies and they’re automatically uploading to iCloud.”
“Huh? What does Apple iCloud have anything to do with this?”
“Umm, it’s an iPad. Apple product.”
Then we realized we were both talking about different iPads—me the electronic device, and he the “eye pads” that some airlines hand out to help you fall asleep.
Life suddenly made a lot more sense.