By Jessica Gorman
Information & Inspiration
By Jessica Gorman
Back in 1997, my mother decided to make a difficult but rewarding trip to California from her home near Philadelphia. She was in treatment for colorectal cancer that had spread to her lungs, but she had never seen the Pacific Ocean.
Physically, she was not well. Her doctors recommended against flying, so she worked with them to understand her options and to create a two-week chemo holiday so she could make the 6,000-mile roundtrip in 15 days in the family van.
She had bragging rights in the chemo suite when she returned, but perhaps most important, the three-day weekend in Santa Cruz, Calif., where I then lived, had been a huge morale boost. She was a cancer patient, but she had a life to live. And a daughter who was grateful that she ventured forth.
This issue of CR reminds me in many ways of her spontaneous yet carefully orchestrated adventure. Most obviously, there’s the story of Diane Selkirk, who pulled up anchor to sail around the world with her husband and daughter. While taking the necessary precautions (look here for tips on traveling with cancer), Selkirk is pursuing an adventure many people who haven’t had cancer would find daunting.
Of course, living with cancer is much more complicated than embarking on an actual voyage. Still, for many people, cancer often becomes a metaphorical journey, with the traveler hoping to find the balance Selkirk has struck: that of being an informed survivor or caregiver while simultaneously being inspired to live life to the fullest.
In this issue, you will find stories that aim to help you on that journey—providing both information that can help inform and improve your life (and the lives of your loved ones and neighbors), and the inspiration to put that information to use.
The information is extensive, from the biology of cancer and updates on new therapies to practical knowledge about how to preserve fertility, eat healthy or handle your return to work after treatment. And then there’s the inspiration: stories of long-term survivors like Nick Spitzer, a radio show host and folklorist who leaned on the souls around him to transform despair over a rare cancer diagnosis into hope. And stories of patients who, even when facing difficult odds and active treatment, sought to embrace life.
Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon professor who died of pancreatic cancer in 2008 after a 22-month illness, was one of those people who saw the glass as half-full. In CR’s cover story, his wife, Jai Pausch, graciously shares the story of the joys of her husband’s unrelenting spirit and her efforts to continue his legacy. To read a longer version of this article, see the online exclusive here.
Finally, this issue also contains ideas to bring your journey full circle: to lend a hand, or offer an ear, or write an elected official, in support of yourself and others who are affected by cancer. Volunteering doesn’t require much time—and it can bring inspiration to your life as well.
That’s something that Cynthia Ryan, a 17-year breast cancer survivor and CR contributing writer, learned while researching the health care needs of homeless cancer survivors. What started as an assignment soon became personal, as Ryan quickly became the confidante of Edwina Sanders, a homeless woman with stage IV breast cancer. “We like sisters,” Sanders told Ryan, “cause … y’all take care of me.” But in the end, it was Ryan’s own cancer journey that was most transformed. Turn here to read the remarkable, and inspiring, story.
Jessica Gorman, Executive Editor
(photo: Samy S. Mir)