The on-going, first-hand tale of a journey through medical oncology... and what happens after.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The other shoe

I cannot say for certain how many times I have heard this line about "the other shoe" and its imminent behavior, or even when I first heard it. I know it has been many years. Apparently, there is a notion that an unfortunate circumstance is akin to a shoe dropping, and since shoes come in pairs then so too must unfortunate circumstances. Conversely (no pun intended), I have also heard that bad stuff happens in threes, and have occasionally participated in web discussions/arguments about that notion. The discussion starts with "how, for example, do we know which stuff counts as bad?" and continues with, "what is the time frame that we should use for the counting (days? weeks? months?)" Needless to say, I suppose, but we never really resolve the questions, and in my opinion the faith/belief perspective of the discussant plays a significant role in their positions on these measures. I am not a believer in twos and threes when it comes to bad things that happen.

Like many of us, I usually wear shoes as a matched set - you know, one for each foot, same color, same style. And before you all guffaw that EVERYONE wears paired shoes, let me remind you about our amputee friends and our trend-setting children. If a shoe dropping corresponds to a person's initial cancer diagnosis, then what is the "other shoe," and do you really want to know? My sense is that you are never really *done* after that first shoe drops. Sure, my family and I have dutifully endured the philosophical, physical, and mental assault of colon cancer in our lives. We have lived through the hell of chemo-therapy, and the anguish of diagnoses, prognoses, and test result waiting periods. It's over, right? Clean slate through one post-chemo round of CT scanning and colonoscopic imagery. Yeah for us!

Well, no, I don't think that it's over - or that it will ever be. I work daily to put cancer as far back in my brain as I can, and to fortify my body through exercise and healthy foods, and by avoiding unhealthy activities. But the threat of a tumor recurrence hangs over me - that proverbial shoe. When it drops, the sound will reverberate back through time to that first diagnosis in March, 2007.

Every day we hear about new cancer diagnoses. Are those additional dropping shoes? Perhaps there are too many shoes in our proverbial closets. Just this week I had the chance to visit with a friend struggling against metastatic cancer of the pancreas. His pain was palpable on so many levels. Cancer is rampaging through our generation, and we do not hear enough about it in the media. We need to do something beyond the individual, quiet, family-and-friends support for those that are on the receiving end of a cancer diagnosis. I am raising awareness (and funds) by cycling in the LiveStrong Foundation Challenge in Portland this June. Team WildWind (named for a street in my town) is our name, and we are hoping to raise $14000 to support cancer research and advocacy through the Lance Armstrong Foundation. You can find out more information at

Shoes dropping and other metaphors aside, we are a small family on this planet... even in our billions. We need to be aware of each others' struggles and look for opportunities to pick up those shoes.




Anonymous said...

Another wonderfully thoughtful piece of writing, Ed. Thanks for sharing that.

Megan said...

I don't think there is another shoe. The other shoe seems to just fade away with time. Maybe the shoe is just dropping so slowly we can't tell.