Just like that, things can change. I got the call from a friend yesterday morning. “I have cancer” said my mentor and friend, “And I need your help.”
On Wednesday I had learned that my Chaplain’s classes were moved from October to January and I was planning a trip back East and camping for the fall. I had signed up to be a delegate at a convention in mid-October. But with those words “I need your help” I didn't think twice about moving things around.
In October 1998, while I was in Boston, and again in 2001 here in California, I needed to make similar calls when I was diagnosed with Lymphoma, and when the lymphoma relapsed 3 years later requiring a bone marrow transplant. I had to ask a lot of people for help then. In 2001, I’d been in California less than 2 years, and the relationship I’d moved here for had ended. I was on my own. I called my family, the nearest of whom lived 1500 miles away, and the furthest 4500 miles away in the UK. I also called a friend in Boston who dropped everything and came to be my caregiver through the worst part of the Bone Marrow Transplant process. Before I was through, my family and my best friends had all come to California to help me move and spend time with me when I got out of the hospital.
10 years later I’m healthy. But three times since, I've gotten the call: “I have cancer, and I need your help”. And without thinking I knew what I needed to do each time. I would move my schedule around and see how I could help.
The events of 9/11 happened towards the end of my recuperation from the transplant. I was not yet back to work, having left Stanford for a new apartment in Davis only 5 days before. So many people lost there lives that day, two of whom I had worked with. A third survived escaping from the WTC down a flight of stairs. He’s never been able to work again and is on disability.
During my recuperation, and especially after 9/11 I realized that my survival from Stage IV cancer was a gift, and I wanted to use the time I’d been given helping others.
10 years later, this call comes just as we are getting ready for the 10-year anniversary of our nation’s tragedy on 9/11. I know I have to help, and get others also to help.
On the anniversary of these awful events, I think best memorial we can give for those we lost that day, is look around us for those who need our help. Then hold out our hands and lift them up.