My sister the Ambassador For Life

First was my grandmother’s birthday. She would have been 84, but she died in 1995, of lung cancer. I buried her husband this past January. He also died of lung cancer. And its has been three years since one of my sisters got her initial diagnosis of — yep, lung cancer. She’s been through surgery, radiation, chemo and remission, followed by systemic metastasis that resulted in a terminal “you’ve got weeks to live” diagnosis.

But she’s still here. Been through another round of full round of chemo, just had a chest X-ray. There is a shadow. If her cancer is on the grow again, well, that’s it. She’s had the maximum dosage of radiation and chemo. Her bones are so brittle she’s broken a half dozen ribs since the first of the year. Her digestive system can’t tolerate meat or glutens anymore. But she keeps going. She lives every day like tomorrow doesn’t matter. Does 500 push ups and 1000 crunches every day. She’s one of my heroes. She’s been named one of the American Cancer Society‘s “Relay for Life” ambassadors, and will be speaking at a fundraiser this month.

She’s also unemployable and uninsured except for MediCal. If she’d had insurance, her lung cancer probably would have been caught long before it reached Stage IV. So in a lot of ways, she’s not only an ambassador for the American Cancer Society, she’s also a poster-child for the need for affordable and preventive health care.

I thought this country had grown up a bit, outgrown the fear-mongering and stepped up to hope and work for the future. And the way some Americans are acting these days, well, it shames us all. It is reprehensible to play on people’s fears. It is shameful to lie to them. But even worse is the pervasive laziness and ignorance. Americans are complacent. We’ve become cattle at the trough, internalizing whatever the media sends through, no matter how outrageous.

This is democracy and freedom of information at work. And we think the rest of the world should emulate us?! Americans have become so lazy, so bloated with information, that they do not consider what they consume. All critical thinking skills seem to have been drowned in high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated vegetable oil, not to mention pundits and talk show hosts.

I know this is very un-sexy. I know you probably read my blog looking for an escape from reality to sensuality. And I try to stick to my motto of giving voice to the sensual immediacy of life, I really do, only sometimes, sometimes the words stick in my throat and I think of the poet Shane Koyczan saying that he doesn’t keep change in his pocket he keeps it in the tip of his pen, because sometimes the writing on the wall can use a little revision.

And I think about my sister, who is dying by the millimeter, cancer cell by cancer cell, and how she still finds the energy to be an Ambassador For Life, and if a woman for whom every breath is a painful reminder of 80 year old ribs in a 40 year old body has the willpower to run a Relay for Life what the FUCK am I doing writing about frottage and orgasms and soft sheets? Does writing about the sensual immediacy of life come close to the level of advocacy she and every person on this planet needs when it comes to health care?

Come on people, let go of your fears. I know you are afraid, we all are. But the difference between the man who killed Martin Luther King and the man who walked on the moon is the man who walked on the moon put his fears of the vaccum of space aside, and took that giant leap for mankind. And the difference between the mobs at the townhall meetings and the thousands who run in the Relay For Life is a recognition that ignorance and fear kill far more people than cancer does. Big Business interests are buying your fears. Your pharmacy purchases, your medical premiums — your money is going toward the millions of dollars a day being spent on misinformation campaigns that are producing the desired result of paralyzing people with fear so the bottom-line keeps growing at double-digit rates.

Don’t let the dying put us to shame. You, too, can be an ambassador for life. Go look for the facts instead of swallowing the inflammatory swill the media outlets are calling “news” and speak the truth to the ignorant. Or one day you, too, just might find yourself with insufficient health insurance and a powerful need for health care, looking back and thinking “if only that insurance reform had gone through back in ’09. Then maybe a routine pap smear would have caught my cancer and I could have seen my daughter graduate from high school.”

End of rant.