It is hot, hot, hot today and I am more than grateful that we have air conditioning. From my perch on the couch, I can gaze at the swimming pool. A slight breeze stirs the air, and three large plastic beach balls move in tandem on the surface of the water. If you were to banish them to distant edges of the pool, they would quickly regroup. Although their attraction is likely explained by physics (static electricity perhaps?), I like to think there is something else going on. Many species eschew the solitary life for one that is social; traveling in flocks, pods and schools confers certain advantages.
I prefer the herd to going it alone, and once I began blogging about my experience with cancer, I sought out other cancer bloggers. Most of these people I have never actually met, and yet some of them I have become so very close to. We’ve cheered, comforted and consoled each other online. On those occasions when one of us has passed, we’ve grieved with a sorrow that felt anything but virtual.
For more than three years now, I have followed the journey of a young man with rectal cancer. His name is Ezra Caldwell and we ‘met’ after submitting photos to the (ongoing) nytimes.com collage of cancer survivors; Picture Your Life After Cancer. In Ezra’s self-portrait he has intense blue eyes and a nosebleed. I was thunderstruck and wanted to know more; when I googled him I found his blog, Teaching Cancer to Cry.
Ezra is a brilliant writer, chef, craftsman (he designed and built custom bikes), photographer, pool shark, husband to Hillary and companion to Putney. He is, quite simply, an extraordinary human being who has touched the lives of so many. And, he is dying.
In December of last year Ezra learned that his cancer had spread. Faced with poor prospects even if he had further surgery and chemotherapy, Ezra made an extraordinary decision; he declined further treatment. For the past six months he has been in palliative care; a few days ago he entered hospice. His goals include managing his pain and maintaining lucidity. And, ultimately, to die with dignity.
Not only does Ezra continue to chronicle his journey, he is now offering limited editions of his photographs—sort of a personal retrospective. They’re selling like hot cakes, but I managed to snag one and I shall treasure it. Just as I have our all too brief friendship.
still in the wrapper: photo and print by Ezra Caldwell
In the meantime, Ezra still has a lot to offer and I a lot to learn. Death is a tough concept, but by tackling it head on and honestly, Ezra is (in his own words) “raising awareness about a palliative approach to terminal illness and trying to make it an earlier and more natural part of the conversation, instead of simply a last stop before you die.”
All my love E…
*Living, Dying and the Laws of Attraction was originally published on Everyday Health in the Life With Lung Cancer blog.