I’m on drugs. Yesterday I started a targeted therapy for my cancer. If you’re the praying kind and, in your praying, you like to give God specific instructions (“Dear God, please help _____ recover from surgery. She’s in room #__ at _________ hospital.”) then it may to know the drug I’m on is called “osimertinib” (“Dear God, please help Ben’s osimertinib kick the shit out of his cancer.”) Seriously, go for it. And if you’re not the praying kind, I honor that and would invite you to create a cheer with a line or two that rhyme with “osimertinib.” Seriously, go for it.
When I went to the pharmacy at the Duke Cancer Center to pick up my $13,776 a month osimertinib (thank you Obamacare – no other way I could afford this), the experience was nothing short of surreal. Weeks of tests, scans, biopsies, waiting, sleepless nights, crying, rallying, oodles of love and support… and it all lead up to a rather mundane, everyday transaction – a guy walking up to a pharmacy counter, giving his name, and being handed a small bag with a bottle of pills inside. To the casual observer, I could have been picking up cough medicine or 1-hour photos. It’s wild being given such a small, life-saving container in such a nonchalant way.
When we were finished, the clerk who rang me up said, “Any more questions?” And I said, “Yes. Will you bless this for me?” The split-second look on her face said three things: 1) no one has ever asked me to do this before, 2) hell, yeah I’ll bless it for you – why wouldn’t I? and 3) I have absolutely no idea what to do or say to bless a bottle of pills. I held it up over the counter and waited. She paused for a beat, made up her mind, and then did a beautiful, polite bow toward the medicine, and as she did so, she threw in hand flourish for good measure. It was so sweet, so dear, this impromptu little blessing. “Perfect!” I said. “Thank you!”
So now the osimertinib is blessed and in my body, taking out cancer cells and holding others in check. But I believe that there are other healing forces at work in and around me. Friends, your prayers and support… I still don’t have words to say what it all means to me. A moment doesn’t pass when I am not confident that I am being held up by so many. Thank you for your presence in my life, for memories, silly stories, words of hope… I can’t express how much I appreciate you these days.
Much, much love,
I have stage IV lung cancer and I write about that here. If you're out there and you're fighting cancer, solidarity. If you read "lung cancer" and you wonder if I was a smoker, read this. Living with cancer is a daily, death-defying reality - one that pushes me to not simply defy death, but to affirm life, bless goodness, cheer for wonder, celebrate beauty... you get the idea. I hope I do that here.