Hungry for Life
September 18, 2001
Here we go again.
At 11:15 this morning--barring another catastrophe--I'm scheduled
to report to Memorial Hospital for cancer surgery. I still
don't know whether I'll actually have the full surgery (removal
of my stomach). That determination won't be made until I'm
on the operating table, under anesthesia. First the doctors
will perform a laparoscopy, poking a hole in my stomach to
look around with a telescope. Depending on the spread of cancer
they find, they'll either go ahead with the stomach ressection
or call it off. So I won't know until I wake up from anesthesia
whether I've had the surgery or not.
My wife asked me last night if I'm concerned. I told her I
feel lucky. How many people in New York would have traded places
with me last Monday night? Probably none. How many would trade
places with me now? If you asked the families of those missing
in the World Trade Center, probably all. To have this day with
family, to breathe this air, to walk in the sunshine--that
don't look upon this last week as a reprieve; I need my operation
sooner rather than later. But being so close to surgery
on the 11th and having it called off, I feel as though Nature
was asking: Do you really appreciate how good you have it?
Do you know how close we all walk to death? Seven more days
of "normal" activity--eating three meals a day, walking
the kids to school, putting them to bed at night, lying together
with my wife--allowed me to glory in the wonderous routines
that before seemed so mundane.
preparation for the surgery, I've had to fast more than 30
I did the same thing last week. The doctors want
my stomach completely empty when they operate. It's been tough
to pass back and forth through all the food in the kitchen,
but oh, am I thankful it's there. In my hunger, I can only
imagine what those panhandlers must feel, walking the streets
with empty stomachs in this city of abundance, seeing the overflowing
markets and bustling restaurants; what those anorexic girls
do to themselves in denying their bodies food day after day;
what the Mahatma Gandhi means when he says, "There are
people in the world so hungry that God cannot appear to them
in any form other than bread." I think of the spiritual
resolve Gandhi showed in fasting for political protest; of
those zen monks who live on the constant edge of hunger so
as to remind themselves to be grateful for any meal they receive.
Stomach or no, I will eat again. Just to sit at the table,
breaking bread with my family--how can I not feel lucky for
In every bite, a taste of God.