As I sit in the airport in Milwaukee, preparing to board a flight delayed by winds in New York, I want to take a few moments to put down some reflections about the last 72 hours.
1. The friendliness and service orientation of folks here in Milwaukee are extraordinary characteristics. During my life growing up, I never really noticed it. On occasion when I return home, I interpret it as "too slow for me now" and feel relieved about coming back to Brooklyn. But this trip home, in order to check in on B who is dealing with an illness, I am struck by how the smallness of a city allows people to focus on the task in front of them with little around them to distract from the job at hand. This quality of reduced background noise, if you will, makes space for meaningful encounter. I have really enjoyed that.
2. A well-run institution means everything. The way I was greeted at the hospital each day--from security guards to janitors to nurses and doctors--was overwhelmingly positive. To the extent that my experience matters, then the people who run Columbia-St. Mary's Hospital on the UWM campus are doing a great job. If people are ultimately treated by everyone who walks into my synagogue the way that I was treated from the parking lot to the chief of oncology, then my career will have accomplished something quite serious.
3. Cancer is bad. It is without feeling. It's malignancy is manifested in the sly and deviant way it appears, before rearing its ugly head and launching its assault. It attacks with no regard to its victim's sense of purpose nor with any regard to the infinite number of ways that the victim is connected to others. But it's threat unifies the forces of good against it, which is fascinating and an important process to experience.
4. Humor and love, combined with transparency, honesty, and aggressive medical acumen, seem to be the key weapons in waging war against cancer. And partnership. Communication is vital. And bottomless buckets of patience. Beneath which are bottomless buckets of patience. It's ironic, because cancer is on the move, so you have to be, too. But only with patience. There exists, in this regard, a kind of alternate universe of time which is fast/slow. One must be in the moment. Like you're ready to catch a fly. A bad fly, full of cancer, threatening you and those you love. But you can't swat it--you have to catch it, and quickly/slowly kill it. If you've been down this road you know what I mean. I never got it until Monday. And Tuesday. And Wednesday. Now I do.
Cancer Fly: I am watching you.