Thursday, August 13, 2009

Which Side Are You On?

Jon and I attended our Congressman's (Schiff) healthcare town hall night before last.  I expected a couple hundred people packed into an auditorium, a few cops, a news van or two, and some scary protesters (they'd already burned an effigy in Maryland - what would they do in L.A.?).  

Well we didn't see any burning effigies, but what a wild scene!  The event was moved out onto the street and over a thousand people were already there an hour before it was scheduled to begin.  All the local media and CNN were there, and cameras were all around filming the various battlefront lines.  

It was curious that, instead of creating a line in the sand with opposing forces on opposite sides, advocates and opponents were spread throughout the crowd.  Shouting matches erupted every hundred feet or so, and heated one-on-one conversations were throughout.  We didn't feel much like engaging the folks waving the "Obama is Hitler" signs, or the guy whose "Obamacare" sign had a hammer and sickle for the "c", but god bless the people who did.  And I was heartened to hear some very respectful and meaningful conversations.  

I don't want to discount the real concerns folks have about healthcare reform, but at this event it was my impression that, more than opposing healthcare reform, some folks were there to oppose Obama (perhaps for reasons they'd rather not say), and this was the issue du jour.

When I began considering attending the town hall, I was envisioning a mic in the middle aisle where one could just unload opinions at the Congressman for three minutes.  Turns out they had question cards to fill out, and I added mine to the box almost completely full of others' cards.  There was a part of me that really wanted to speak because I think my story's untouchable - an example of our fatally-flawed healthcare system that everyone can agree on!  I'd been invited to speak at healthcare forums, but declined because I was always in some stage of recovery, plus I was worried I might get emotional, lose my train of thought, etc.  But lately I've been feeling well, and have talked through my fears enough that I thought I could at least read a written statement.

We didn't stay to hear if my question was read, but I did get a chance to speak in an interview with Sonali Kolhatkar, host of the radio program "Uprising".  Here's a link to the segment:  You can click on "listen to this segment" and hear my two cents about six minutes in.  

This was the first time I put myself out there in the public healthcare debate, and I was a little worried about it.  Up until now, I've been putting my story on the internet and watching others respond.  The story receives mostly supportive responses on the web, but a healthcare reform advocate posted it to, and some opponents took the opportunity to say some nasty things!  Like, "Just not worth it.  People are beings and beings die.  This is the cycle of life." and  "Sounds like she is already dead."  Woo-hoo!  Can't wait to jump into that thread and say, Boo!

So all this activism, and the fact that I watched Pete Seeger's 90th birthday jamboree last week, has put me in the mood for a good protest song!  Been singin' 'em all week!  Here's one of my favorites:

"With God On Our Side"
Bob Dylan w/Joan Baez in 1964

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Feeling the Love

I am in awe.  Completely overwhelmed with gratitude and happiness.  Three months ago I thought $100,000 in 100 days? - sure, why not make a pie-in-the-sky fundraising goal.  And now I'm astounded as the end date for the campaign is here... and so is $100,000.  

Because of your donations I have been - and will continue to be - able to afford the treatments my insurance company has denied.  These treatments have greatly reduced the cancer in my body, and I'm feeling very good, physically and emotionally, as I sit here and type.  

Although the funds raised have a direct effect on my health, I think of equal and possibly even greater effect is the outpouring of love and support.  I don't know how to have enough gratitude for all of it.  It has changed my life.  People would find it hard to believe that after a stage IV cancer diagnosis I could be the happiest I've been in my life, but it's true!

On top of the amazing life-affirming and loving notes from family and friends, I've received hundreds of supportive messages and donations from strangers, some from places as far away as Costa Rica, New Zealand, and Switzerland.  I've just been blown away by this response.

I know that all the positive messages, prayers and good energy directed at me have improved my condition, and I am extremely thankful to everyone who has helped me in this way.  Doctors can't quantify the effect of positivity on a patient's prognosis, but they know it helps.  I know it helped me very much, and continues to propel me towards more healing and recovery.

I want to write every expression of gratitude to everyone because "thank you" is just not enough.  So here are some more!  Danke!  Merci!  Much obliged!  Cheers!  Na gode!  Xie xie!  Domo arigato!  Mahalo nui loa!  Well, that was a little more satisfying (for those of you playing, yes, that IS Hausa!).  But what I really want to do is give everyone a big hug and say, "I'm so happy you're here!"  And I'm so happy I'm here!

Muchas Gracias.