A Year in Minutes

April 2, 2002, Maui, Hawaii

Today marks the one year anniversary of my diagnosis. A better measure might be to think of it as 365 days. Or 8,764 hours. Or 525,600 minutes. Because like all people with cancer, I don't have the luxury to think in terms of years. My focus has been, and remains today, strictly short-term, living in the here and now. That I've survived--I daresay thrived--twelve months with cancer only reflects the fact that a mile is made up of many inches.

I am overjoyed to observe this day on Maui, the place my family called home for six idyllic years just prior to my diagnosis. We needed to come here badly. When we left the island for New York last January, little did we know what hardships awaited us. How many times over the last year, fighting the battle with cancer, did I use memories of Maui to try and restore some inner peace--the color of the sky at sunset, the sound of the rolling waves, the feel of the sand in my hands? During the worst hours of treatment, here is where my mind would flee.

Arriving at the airport Friday, I was stunned by the number of friends in the waiting area to welcome us for our two-week visit. I knew how much it meant to me, my wife, and children to return here after 15 months away. What I hadn't forseen was how much it meant to our friends. As they showered us with leis and hugs and kisses, they delivered the same greeting: "Welcome home." I felt like Ulysses at the end of the Odyssey--finally reaching a resting place after a long, unfathomably hard journey. I felt, too, the presence of my father, whom we laid to rest here 19 years ago--a smile on his face, his arm around my shoulder, saying, "You made it." Beyond any control, the tears poured out of me from some deep place I don't even know.

One of the great lessons of this year with cancer has been realizing how deeply my family and I are loved--and how desperately we need that love. Where we once saw ourselves as self-reliant, we've come to accept our vulnerability and allow others help us because they love us;because it empowers them to givetheir love as much as it does us to receive it. To be on the receiving end of such an outpouring has been at once both humbling and energizing. It makes us realize how lucky we are to have such a powerful force in our lives, and gives us the strength to carry on another day, another hour, another minute in the struggle.

As we celebrated Easter with our friends on Sunday, I prayed that this season of rebirth might bring a change in course, that this showering of love might lead to a flowering of health. I can't help but feel that all this love is going to produce something wonderful and good.

Here is the place, now is the time. I'll yet get this ocean liner turned around.

Another minute passes, and soon, another year.

God, I love life.

photo: 31 mar 02