Community

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A friend and I have a “secret handshake” joke about communities. She does not like the term. I use it all the time in our discourse just to good-naturedly annoy her.

Yeah, I’m like that sometimes. Sigh. I’m working on it. I promise.

What is a community?

When I right click on the term on my iMac, Wikipedia gives me helpful hints, as always.

The term community has two distinct commutative meanings: 1) Community can refer to a usually small, social unit of any size that shares common values. The term can also refer to the national community or international community, and 2) in biology, acommunity is a group of interacting living organisms sharing a populated environment.

Now, last time I checked, there were roughly seven billion people on the blue marble (and I haven’t counted the last two births in Sydney this afternoon, because, well, it’s still early morning here and that just freaks me out without enough coffee in me yet).

One birth every eight seconds.

One death every twelve seconds.

A net gain of one new soul every thirteen seconds.

There are a truckload, a big earth-moving-vehicle-kind-of-truck-load of us, on this planet. We are living interactive living organisms sharing a populated environment. But that’s not all, is it? We are so much more than that.

We sometimes form little groups, little cliques, little clubs. We have secret decoder rings so we can read each other’s messages. We have secret handshakes. We speak specialized languages that help us keep others out (admit it) as much as bring others into the fold. We wear special colors that identify us, endear us, and sometimes vilify us to others inside and outside our own circles. We meet at prescribed places and times to air our frustrations, plot our revenge, elevate our heroes, plan our celebrations, and to mourn our dead. We live and breathe together. Always, if nothing else, together.

One such group, among the myriad others, is the #bcsm group on Twitter.

This group of men and women blow me away. I have learned so much from them, and I continue to learn every day. They have enlightened me about cancer, friendship, coping, living, loving, and maintaining good mental health in the face of unimaginable stress.

They enjoy every minute of every day of their lives, because many of them know that the remaining days are already numbered. They rejoice when good news comes, and they rally, I mean rally, around one of their own when stumbles happen. When a hero among them passes away, a more loving and caring passage to the other side could not be scripted. Some of them, friends of mine, take the time to ask about me, my struggles, and my hopes and fears even as they process their latest scans or set up their next chemo appointment.

Community.

Phenomenal.

Loving.

Caring.

Common goals.

A common will to squeeze every drop out of life on this planet, whether that life lasts eight more months or thirty more years.

Men and women of the #bcsm community, and I use that word with the very highest respect I can muster, I salute you.

I am honored to share the planet with you, and I hope to be sharing it for many more years to come.

F You

This is a reposting, with slight modifications, of a piece I did not quite four months ago after a tornado touched down just miles from my boyhood home in Georgia. With all the angst surrounding cancer and the destruction of prophylactic treatment, plus the devastating news of the deaths of more children in a monster tornado strike in Moore, Oklahoma, yesterday, I felt the need to repost it. Please bear with me. We’ll get back to the emergency department shortly. For now, let’s support those who labor in the hospitals of Oklahoma, saving lives, comforting families and putting a community back together one stitch at a time. Godspeed, Moore, Oklahoma. 

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F4.
Incredibly strong tornado.
207-260 mph.
Strong frame houses lifted off foundations and carried considerable distances to disintegrate; automobile sized missiles fly through the air in excess of 100 meters; trees debarked; steel re-inforced concrete structures badly damaged.

Devastating damage.

We had a strong storm front come through the midwestern United States yesterday. In the center of the ragged slash of weather on a weather app was the hard, bright-red mark of destruction. Pretty on the screen, destructive on the ground.

Destroyer of worlds.

Reports began to trickle in from a small town in Oklahoma of a monster twister that had descended from the blackness of the cloud bank, a mile-wide kiss on the the ground, crossing the landscape and leveling buildings like they were made of children’s wooden blocks. Not quite an F-4, but terrifying nonetheless. Reports of multiple deaths began to trickle in. Many of the dead were children. Veteran reporters cried giving the details on the ground. It was an emotional nightmare for all.

When I see such destruction I think of my friends, family and aquaintences who struggle with cancer. My aunt who succumbed to ovarian cancer. My mother, who is a breast cancer survivor. My friend, who is more than five years past a diagnosis of testicular cancer. Another friend who lives with metastatic breast cancer. Like an F-4 monster, the disease drops unexpectedly from the sky. Pretty colored X-rays and scans reveal the destructive power underneath. Sirens go off. The mind screams take cover, take cover! The body sometimes is only grazed, shrapnel cutting but not killing. Other times, the impact is devastating. Nothing looks as it did before the storm. The landscape is flattened and only rubble is left.

Is there anything good about F-4s and cancer?

What an odd question, you think.

Not really.

These scourges, while leaving city blocks and body parts in absolute ruin, are often surgical in their devastation. That is, a few hundred yards away, or a few inches outside the margins, the sun is shining, the tissue is healthy and life goes on. Friends rush to help. Prayers go up. Communities, wonderful communities form. Support is not only offered but insisted upon. Rebuilding begins-immediately-in the aftermath of the siren’s wail and the surgeon’s knife.

When the horror and the shock and the denial and the anger and the tears and all of it subsides, victims become empowered survivors.

Strong!

The chorus goes up.

F you, tornadoes. We will rebuild.

F you, cancer. I am scarred, but alive.

We’re still here.

F you.