When you or the person you love most in the world pulls a bad diagnosis out of life’s jar of gumballs, it’s all too easy to become overwhelmed by the silty, swirling slew of internet assertions, listservs, support groups, tiny print scientific papers and raw emotion engendered by the hard kernel of fear that pulls you down, down, down into the brackish dark water.
I was so there last week. Tom and I had recently returned from yet another trip to Jacksonville for his second chemo cycle. The nausea and fatigue were hanging on longer than they did after the first treatment. For the first time in our thirty-plus year marriage, I began to feel the small pond of our fourteen-year age difference widening into a gulf. It was a terrible feeling.
The afternoon’s prototypical panhandle Florida late July flash thunderstorms and thick air matched the brewing storm I could feel behind my eyes as I drove to the post office and the grocery store. My throat felt lumpy like I was about to cry or scream. Hoping for distraction, I turned on the car radio. Rather than mere distraction, I found inspiration from the gifted host of the co-produced NPR TED Radio Hour, Guy Raz. The topic for his show that day was an exploration “of the minds and bodies of champions who achieve extraordinary feats.”
In the segment I listened to, he interviewed swimming champion Diana Nyad, who at age 64 became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a protective cage. She attempted the swim four times unsuccessfully over a period of 35 years. It almost cost Nyad her life. But in September of 2013,the year in which her self-described mantra was “find a way,” Diana Nyad succeeded. Her spirit and physical prowess are phenomenal.
The TED Radio Hour interview changed my personal channel altogether and I had an epiphany that I needed to stock my emotional quiver with inspirational arrows. And that I needed to get back on track with my creative projects, to write my way through this storm. I’m grateful to my trusty old car radio, and to Guy Raz and Diana Nyad for guiding me with the touchstones of their words all the way from the bottom of the river back up into the fresh air and light. Because of them and the serendipity of the moment, I figured out how I could write about Tom and my experience with MCL. Because of them, I’m writing again and there’s hardly a better feeling in the world.
So now, to keep that inspirational thang going, I’ve started looking at more TED talks, listening to magnificent music, writing and playing my big old rafter-rattling piano again.
Here’s Diana Nyad’s TED Talk: “Never, Ever Give Up.” Enjoy.