Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Heavy Lifting

Wow, I can't believe it has been six weeks since I last wrote. The summer has just flown by with not much happening -- I honestly can't say that anything spectacular kept me from writing. Perhaps that's it -- nothing spectacular happened, and thus I didn't feel compelled to write. There was really nothing to report.

Well, now I feel like writing. Two things have really been occupying my thoughts for the past 24 hours: New Orleans and cancer. They seem like two pretty incongruent things until you realize that both concern very close friends of mine.

My best friend Ti is from New Orleans; she lives in Nashville now, but most of her family still lives back in the greater New Orleans area. My family was on vacation, so I didn't pay a lot of attention to Hurricane Katrina until all of a sudden there were images on TV of New Orleans under double-digit feet of water. The realization that Ti's family was likely affected by this didn't dawn on me all at once, but rather washed over me as I began to understand the implications for her elderly great-aunt living alone in Metarie or her dad in his house on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain. It turns out that her family was able to get out of the city safely, but they can truly be considered refugees now. Their homes and business were badly damaged, if not completely destroyed, and it will be months and months before they're able to rebuild. In the meantime, they're staying with Ti, her husband, and their two toddlers. And in being able to flee the city with their lives, Ti's family can truly be considered the lucky ones...

The footage of people stranded in New Orleans has been heartwrenching, appalling, and maddening. These poor, wretched souls are left without basic human necessities like food and water. They are literally living among their dead. Babies have no food, diapers, or clean water. The elderly are suffering the effects of the elements, dehydration, and malnutrition. There is no potable water supply and NO HELP IN SIGHT! And this is in America!! This enrages me! This tragedy has been going on for four days now -- why hasn't our federal government air-dropped supplies to the folks in the Convention Center and SuperDome? Why haven't we mobilized our troops to go in there, restore order, and provide humanitarian aid? I'll tell you two reasons why our response has been so slow: 1) we're tying up too many of our resources in Iraq where we're unwanted and unsuccessful, and 2) those left behind to suffer in New Orleans are largely black and poor. There is no reason why citizens of the world's richest and most powerful country should be suffering like this and receive such a dwadling response from our federal government.

So, I thank God that Ti's family is safe and healthy. I wish all of them continued strength. I know the next few months will be incredibly difficult, but they will be spending them counting their blessings rather than bemoaning their losses.

As for cancer, I have been thinking about my friend Jen who is undergoing chemotherapy for a rare form of sarcoma. I don't know any other way to express my feelings about this than to say that this sucks. What are the chances that cancer hits two women in a small circle of friends before they're forty? Well, it did. First me, then Jen. In some odd way, I thought that my experience with cancer would mean that none of my friends would have to get it. I know it doesn't make sense rationally, but it's the kind of irrational rationalization that we do, "Well, if I got cancer, the odds are that my friends won't get it, so I got it out of the way for all of us. Okay, I've got cancer covered, can someone else take on infertility? How about divorce? Anyone?" I mean, it makes no sense, but these are the kinds of things that we tend to think. Anyway, Jen underwent surgery in March, and we were hoping that she could keep the cancer at bay and not have to undergo chemo. Well, it turns out that a recent test showed that the cancer was back and they decided to start chemo. Having the perspective of a cancer/chemo survivor, I know in exactly how many ways chemo sucks. And I am so sorry that anyone I know, much less love, has to go through with it. But, my friend Jen is a testament to the human spirit. Even before the whole cancer thing intruded into her life, she was one of the most effervescent, upbeat, positive people I have ever met. She is one of those folks who collects friends wherever she goes because people just love being around her. And bless her, that attitude has not changed even in the face of cancer. She starts her second round of chemo next week, and I pray that it goes as well as the first, and that she is able to continue working and exercising as she did after her first round. But, even if she gets down physically, I expect her to stay up mentally. And if she can't, I promise to help with the heavy lifting of her spirits.