I just missed World Lung Cancer Day. Well, not quite. I did spit out this tweet:
For those who were able to post something inspirational, I have nothing but respect. But I just found myself unable to embrace the concept of a day devoted to lung cancer.
That’s because for those of us living with this disease, every single day is lung cancer day. And every single one of those days, we wish it wasn’t.
If we’re not dying, our friends are. This disease is a holocaust, a catastrophe, a fucking disaster. And although there is nothing wrong with ‘raising awareness’, we absolutely cannot stop there.
As important as it is to inspire, it is also necessary to incite. Complacency equals complicity, folks. And if we are going to inspire anything, it should be a sense of urgency. And raising awareness? Let’s put the money where our mouths are and raise funds; moneys for lung cancer research. How about devoting November to one giant bake sale? Or a virtual bake sale, with a go-fund campaign devoted to lung cancer. Let’s make our goal a million dollars. I mean, why not?
A cookie for a cure. Let’s do it.
My morning ritual now is to roll out of bed, release Kumo from his crate for a brief hug and scuffle, pull on yesterday’s clothes, grab leash, keys and sunglasses before heading out the door for an hour-long walk with a little white dog at my side.
We have become a bit of a fixture in this neighborhood and it is no longer unusual to have people wave or offer a greeting. On this particular morning we saw a young woman jogging and I thought to myself that the U Mass students must be returning. Later, as we crossed a bridge, we moved over to let a young man on a bicycle pass. He too appeared to be a student–nice bike, preppy clothes, trim hair and eyeglasses, smelling freshly scrubbed as he rode by.
As pedestrians, we had the actual right of way on the sidewalk and yet it is my practice to move over for cyclists, a gesture which is almost always acknowledged with a smile or a thank you.
However, this young man, who looked the very epitome of privilege, did not appear to notice the woman and her dog (us), scrunched against a traffic barrier so that he could pass without dismounting. This irritated me–in a way that it would not have had he not possessed the air of privilege. I berated myself for feeling judgmental–perhaps the young man was simply shy and lacking in social graces.
However, it got me thinking.
One of the privileges of privilege is a special set of blinders; if you are privileged, you are also unaware of your privilege because it is something you take for granted.
Privilege is autonomic–like breathing, or the beating of your heart. If you are privileged, you don’t give it much thought–again, the privilege of privilege.
Of course, there are so many layers to privilege, something I was reminded of when we walked by a group of construction workers and one of them laughed in a lascivious way. It is a laugh I am all too familiar with–one that connotes a very different sort of privilege.
I gave this more thought. What a privilege it once was to lie on the beach rather than in a CT scanner. And what a privilege it is to lie in a CT scanner rather than on a table in a morgue.
It’s all relative, privilege.
Those of us who are ALK+ (alkies) have a Facebook group (ALK-I.E.S. Worldwide–it is a closed group–limited to those who are ALK+, message the moderator for permission to join) started by Tom Carroll and his wife Merita (Merita is the patient/mutant). This group operates as both a forum and a source of support, and has a growing membership of ALK+ patients and their caregivers which is worldwide.
Earlier today one of the members asked for the link to a story I appeared in some eight years ago, on June 2, 2009. They were inquiring as they’d been introduced to Bill Schuette, another ALK+ patient, and he had referenced this particular news story while talking about his own cancer journey.
I found the link, which was kind of fun as I had not watched it in years. More fun still, in the ensuing online conversation we learned that Bill provided essential information to another alkie, Catherine, who in turn helped Jeff, also ALK+. Bill himself joined our conversation and provided a link to a video he made at MGH. Watched in conjunction, our two videos are such a splendid example of how media has the (exponential) potential to help someone else. And social media serves the same purpose–as we make connections and share information and resources.