I woke up at 4:00 this morning and was not able to get back to sleep. I became preoccupied after reading the recent Boing Boing post by Xeni Jardin the night before describing her positive diagnosis for breast cancer. It is an honest and poignant piece. I think it was also brave to put it all out there for all to see, but then she may not think so. This is a woman who lives so much of her life digitally (seemingly in public), so maybe it just seemed like an obvious thing to do.
She and I have never met, although I have always wanted to: I’ve followed her in Wired and Boing Boing for a number of years and have always enjoyed her posts and articles. She is a smart cookie with a sharp mind and a clear and unfettered perspective in her missives. She is also a music head, so that pretty nails it for me. I guess I have to admit that I have a little web/blogger crush (don’t worry @Xeni, I am not a stalker, I promise).
Her diagnosis piece hit me square between the eyes and left me feeling sad, frustrated and angry. Perhaps because it was so unexpected (like news of cancer ever is –unless the news comes from the mouth of a chronic smoker), but this was from a person who I do not know. Perhaps it is because I am in the middle of reading the intensely fascinating The Emperor of All Maladies, so talk of cancer is top of mind right now. Most likely though, is that it is still an emotionally sensitive topic, more than I had realized. I experienced the loss of an important person in my life to breast cancer less than a year ago and I still live with that weird sensation of disbelief, like it’s something that didn’t really happen –just a bad dream that continues to stick with me because it was so vivid and visceral.
This last few years though, I have begun to be confronted with the odd reality that many of my friends are (also) getting cancer and this disturbs me to no end. I lost another dear friend a couple of years ago to liver cancer. She was in her early ‘40s. Another friend of mine in Austin is undergoing chemo for her breast cancer diagnosis. A friend who played in one of the bands on my old label informed me that he’s been dealing with pancreatic cancer while another friend from the old music biz has just finished her final round of chemo [he has since passed since this piece was initially posted – DH]. Every one of these people are younger than I am and it just seems…abnormal ….as it does with Xeni. She is –I believe—41 atht e time of this writing. The probability of a positive diagnosis at this age is still statistically low, but it seems like I am witnessing more and more people dealing with this sort of news at earlier ages than they should be. Am I simply getting to an age in my life where this is just par for the course? I hope not. I will be thinking good thoughts that Xeni’s post from Dec.1 will indeed be the case: “There is a long road ahead and it leads to happiness and a cancer-free, long, healthy life.” For her and for my friends as well.