Dave Denniston is a world-class swimmer who lost the use of his legs in a sledding accident early in 2005. A few months ago, he wrote on his blog,
Attitude is everything, or so Ive been told, but when you arent allowed the chance to have a bad attitude, you soon realized that the people around you are everything. I know there is a tendency to forget about tragedys that other people experience, but in one years time I dont feel like anyone has forgotten about me. I would have to guess that I have more fans now than I ever did while I was competing.
There is so much Ive learned about myself this year that I wouldnt have traded the experience for anything. Im honestly reporting that the last year has been the best year of my life. My character has been tested, my body has been tested, and my spirit has been tested. Im a much better person now because of my paralysis.
I remember reading that, especially about the best year of his life, and thinking "That's really good of him to say. It's also gotta be bullshit."
But it's not. They haven't cut me yet, and I can't know in advance how I'll react to the ways my life will change when they do, but I can imagine that a better, stronger person would look at this experience and be thankful for it. I've seen instances of decency and love and community that I think a lot of people go their whole lives without seeing. Is that worth losing a stomach? Maybe. Relatives in Iran got on a plane and went to a shrine to say prayers for me; people are lighting candles for me in church; the phone hasn't stopped ringing; friends are crying when I tell them the news, and flying in to see me; nurses juggle schedules and twist arms to get me in to see the doctor; we have to stagger the visits from people who want to fly in for my surgery. I know it's cancer, but it feels like love. More than I ever would have known, I think.
And maybe things like this diagnosis remind us all of what we most care about, and stay with us long enough to keep us good and true when "normal life" is going on. Or maybe these are the little rips that communities gather around to mend. I really don't know. But when people say "That's awful," I think yeah, it's awful, and I'm fucking scared, but it's also amazing and wonderful, and part of you should envy me, because I've seen a beautiful world.