Monday, April 22, 2013

Cancer and the Preciousness of Life

I've been meaning to post this talk for about six months. Thanks for transcribing it MJ! 

It’s funny, it occurred to me during the meditation that, I think it’s been a couple of years since I’ve been here, but I don’t know, I definitely see some familiar faces. I see, actually, your lovely group of men I’ve come to talk to. And I think that last time I was here I talked about patience. So I’ve had quite a lot of opportunity in my life to work with that since then.

But I wanted to start out reading a little paragraph by a poet called John O’Donohue, who you might have heard of. He says, “Eventually even the strangest things become absorbed into the routine of the daily mind, with it’s steady geographies of endurance, anxiety and of contentment. Only seldom does the haze lift and we glimpse for a second the amazing plenitude of being here. Only seldom does the haze lift and we glimpse for a second the amazing plenitude of being here. Sometimes unfortunately it is suffering or threats that awakens us. It could happen one evening. You’re busy with many things, netted?? into your role and the phone rings. Someone you love is suddenly in the grip of an illness that could end their life within hours. It only takes a few seconds to receive that news, yet, when you put the phone down, you are already standing in a different world.”

So I have been standing in a different world since I last saw you. I was, I had a Skype call with one of my sisters who lives in Singapore and I was talking to her last night and she seems to really continue to be astonished that I’m not seeming to suffer more than I am. And in some ways I am suffering less in that I actually have less anxiety than I did before I was diagnosed with cancer, which is this sort of punch line, of sorts, in January, an advanced stage cancer. The staging was at the stage 4b. And once I was talking to a social worker and I told her that I wasn’t particularly afraid of dying or I just didn’t feel that aware of being afraid of dying, but I had more fear around sort of quality of life questions and whether I would be disabled in certain ways, either by the cancer or by the treatment. And she said something interesting. She said that spiritual people or people who pray or meditate, she said pretty much all of them spoke about it as I was speaking about it. But she said a lot of other people she speaks to were even unable to utter the word “death.” It just simply they could not think about it, talk about it, anything. So, yeah, I don’t know, I actually, I felt like I had a great deal of compassion towards those people because that situation sounds extremely painful to me, to have this sort of thing looming that you can’t talk about.

So I thought what I would do today is just say a little bit about how this journey has been for me and just offer a few reflections, but I also want to save a little bit of time at the end to hear what any of you have to say on the subject. I’m sure that there is also a great deal of wisdom in this room.

So I’m not just not quite sure what angle to take on this, but anyway, so just to briefly summarize, so in January you know, a malignant tumor was discovered just below my cervix and there were many scans and appointments and things that happened after that. So I had a tumor, and it was moving into my bladder, and I also had it in my bones in my hips, so it’s basically a lot of cancer going on under my pelvis. And a couple of weeks after I found out, I hopped on my bicycle to go somewhere and just screeched in pain because my sit bones were really painful, and I started not being able to sit in normal chairs. And I stopped being able to sit as I’m sitting now, which was possibly the most disturbing of all.

Has anybody seen that movie 50/50?  So the guy in there, it’s a good movie, the guy in there,  the star in the movie, is given a 50/50 chance that all this treatment that he is getting is going to work. And the type of cancer that I got is so rare that there’s no information about it. So it was just a, I was just told by very, very many nice people, “Just wait and see. We’ll do the treatment and we’ll just see what happens.” And I’d be like, “Well, what are the odds that, say, in five years I’m going to be alive?” And it’s, I don’t know, I don’t know. I think one, I think one guy actually did say 50%. But it sounded like a completely random sort of guess, so I didn’t take that much stock in it. And, yeah, I was just, I was 48 at the time, I had had virtually no health problems in life, sleep really well, healthy digestion, all that stuff.

So, you know, when I’m talking about it, it feels like a kind of heavy topic. I would be, well it would be a great disservice to everybody if I didn’t say that it had many, many benefits for me. At some point I remember I was walking with my friend and she was going to a lot of appointments and stuff – for a while I had appointments every day or twice a day, and I was kind of walking along with her and I was thinking, “Do I feel happier since I got diagnosed with cancer?” And I was kind of like, “It kind of seems like I do.” And she thought that was really weird, as do I, but I did want to talk about some, yeah, some of the benefits, just because it’s something that happened. And I have become much more loving since this happened and I have experienced a lot of people expressing their love for me, and I suspect sometimes it might be because they wonder if it’s the last chance they’re going to get. But whatever the reason is, it’s lovely. I really, I really enjoy my time with people. I’m not, I feel like I’m a lot less stressed out than practically anybody around me, I feel like there’s so much angst and stress and stuff that people are dealing with.

Sometimes people don’t want to tell me their problems because they feel like anything they could be going through is just silly compared to what I’m going through. And I always say, people are suffering and I’m tired of my story, so let’s hear your story, and you know, sometimes it sounds terrible, you know, like. Somebody who’s just worried about money all the time, like, I don’t know, I just  feel like I have a bit more time for that, and just for other people. And also, just life. I really, I enjoy, yeah, I mostly, I enjoy my life, you know, when I’m not suffering , sort of drastically from the treatment I was getting. I mean I’ve got a lot of issues that emerge. And, by the way, everything that you see before you now, is totally fake. (Laughter) There is nothing here that is ?? sort of real person. It takes a while to put together too, I tell you.  (laughter)

Yeah, and you know a lot of people, I mean I’m sure people in here have had cancer, or have cancer; we’ll probably hear something about that later, their trouble, like that. Although sometimes you know when people are trying to be supportive, they’re, you know they’ll say, oh, you know, they talk about the fight. Like, “You’re going to fight this, you’re going to kick ass on the cancer,” and all this stuff. I’ve just never really thought of it that way because I feel like it’s my body and I don’t want to fight for my body. As the Buddha tried to teach, anything that happens, anything that we can describe about this room, or any thought that we have or anything, is arising out of myriad conditions, some of which we can be aware of and really understand and experience and some of which we’re just never really going to have any idea.

So I feel like that’s what happens, and I, you know I’ve gone through, I go through all kinds of stages with that , like, this thing about what should be happening, what should not be happening. I mean I think in a way this is very basic Buddhism, and for me that’s kind of morphed into, well, maybe it should be happening, but not right now. And I, because you know my doctors comment a lot, and so I’m 49 now and my doctors comment a lot that, how young I am. So finally I was talking to a doctor and so I said, “So when you say I’m young, do you mean that I’m not like 70? Is that what you mean by young?” And he said, “No, I mean you’re not 85.” And I was like, “Oh, okay.” (laughter) ??? So like, this isn’t the right time for this to happen, like this is something that I’ve worked with a lot. And I feel like I’ve mostly just said, “okay.” I mean I know my sister sometimes comments when I talk to her. I feel like I have pretty much completely accepted that this is my situation. There’s nothing wrong with it from a certain point of view, it’s just what’s happening. And again, like I said, it’s allowed me to occupy my life in a way that I feel like I wasn’t quite doing before.

And I also feel like you know, if you have cancer or some other kind of debilitating illness, and you’re fighting it, and you’re thinking like, “I can’t die, like I’m not going to die, dying is not an option, no, no, no, no, no,” that just means, you know, I’m sure a lot of people think of that as a very positive thing. But I think that’s just basically, what you’re saying is, you have to live in fear of something that you virtually have no control over, and you have to pretend that what is real is not real, that what is a possibility is not a possibility, you have to act like you can absolutely control that. And you know, I’m not even saying, maybe that’s useful for some people, I just have to say I can’t think of it that way. Because it’s like, choose life, and we can choose life, but if life doesn’t’ choose back (laughter), I mean it’s kind of like it’s up to life. Life gets to decide.

So I feel like I have had to let go of my life in some way, you know, which is sad in a way. But in a way it also feels kind of liberating, and it also feels like, I also feel totally engaged with my life and with people.  It’s just that I feel like, you know, if at some point I need to just let it go or when I need to let it go, I at least feel like I will be able to do that. But who knows what will really happen?

So I’ve had two rounds of treatment. The first round was in January, February, March, and it was radiation every day and chemotherapy once a week. And I had metastases, so it went into my lungs, so I had kind of a break and then I started chemotherapy again. But I’ve had, I had ?? an exam last week, and so I’ve got it confirmed, I’ve had it confirmed several  times that all the cancer in my pelvis is completely gone. But then, so now the chemotherapy is where I have these little nodules in my lungs. So we’ll see what happens with that.

My biggest fear is not dying. My biggest fear is getting to a point where I keep having things cropping up here and there and having to deal with them and then at some point having to just say that I want to stop treatment and then that, like, dealing with my family and stuff. Like, that’s kind of like the eventuality that I… And you know it might not happen. I’ve responded very well to treatment. I don’t know. But it’s very interesting, this whole idea about not knowing. Because I find that when I say that I don’t know, there’s a meaning on one side or the other. I can just go like, “I don’t know what’s going to happen. Nobody’s given me any data. I’m just, here I am, I’m just going to see what happens.” But I find, you know, on a given day or a given week or a given whatever, I’m kind of going, “Yeah, but it’s never gonna go away,” or “Yeah, but I think it’s fine.”

There’s always this very subtle kind of trying to know what’s going to happen. Which I think applies to possibly everybody. We all think that we know what’s going to happen. We all have some idea of how long we think we’re going to live probably. Maybe a lot of us think we’re going to die of old age or something else. Actually that brings up another weird story that my friend was telling me yesterday, which was that her sister went to a doctor for like, I can’t remember if it was stomach pains or chest pains, and the doctor said, “Oh, you know you think it might be some kind of anxiety.” And she said, “Well, I am kind of worrying about dying of cancer,” and this was, I tell you, this was my kind of doctor, maybe not everybody’s kind of doctor, but the doctor said, “We’re all going to die of cancer.” (laughter)  Oh, you’re a real nurturer, aren’t you?

But anyway, so, it just points to the fact, of, you know, we don’t know what’s going to happen. But in a way, I mean, especially, you know, our lives are probably fairly stable, and it’s like, well, “Yeah, I could die today, but odds seem pretty good that I’ve lived this long and things seem pretty stable,” but, you know, we don’t know with any plans we make if we’re going to be able to actually do them. And I think there’s something that’s really, yeah, there’s something from, I think it’s Padmasambhava, who said, what was it, “I do not know, I do not have, I do not understand.” And I feel like there’s really something in that for me, something that really. It’s not like you go bumbling around, like you don’t understand anything. More that, just allowing, basically just allowing possibility, just allowing this potential all the time, and allowing to, allowing us to respond creatively to the actual moments that we have, rather than what we  imagine them to be, or what we very deeply want them to be because we want to continue, and we expect to continue in some way, and we expect other people to continue. And I think most people sort of think of that situation as being tremendously sad, and there is, it is sad. It’s also, or it can be, just very, create a very, a very beautiful, almost magical experience of what it means to be alive, how it feels to be alive and really living that, which I don’t profess to be doing, but I feel like I’ve got a little taste of that somewhere.

I was on a retreat, no idea when it was, it might have been last summer and we were doing this, it wasn’t a silent retreat, we were doing this very strange exercise that would be very hard to explain. But anyway there was a group of people sitting down and a group of people standing up and the standing up people would whisper something, their deepest wish, their heart’s wish to the person sitting down and they would switch. So everybody who was standing whispered their heart’s wish to everybody who was sitting down and then switched. And other than it was confusing and people kept getting lost, (laughter) and some people heard the wish twice and all that. Besides all that somebody said to me. “Love is literally everything.” And I just, well, actually the first thing I thought was, “Well my wish was really dumb compared to yours.” (laughter) But then after that, yeah, and I feel like that kind of just goes with my whole theme of during this time.

So I have on October 5th, I do my last round of this chemotherapy that I’m doing, and that’s just kind of, I’ll see what happens after that. So this is, that’s been my year of pondering these things. And yeah, it really has been really wonderful in many ways and I, I mean I think it’s funny, I always think when that, I say that, I’ve got this devil and angel on your shoulder and I don’t know which one is saying this, but one of them is saying, “Oh, god, like don’t be an optimistic American. You know, like, everything’s great, I’ve got cancer! I love this!” (laughter) So I don’t think that’s what I’m doing. But I, you know, I guess I’ve just been so, personally so surprised by the benefits that I have gotten, in my life, that I, you know, I maybe do tend to be a little bit emphatic about it.

But you know there’s also, well why don’t we just balance out the situation. Okay so there’s also, like people telling you that if you eat tumeric, you will cure your cancer, because that’s what their friend did, and you know, other things, drinking hydrogen peroxide and all kinds of stuff. Actually people have kind of stopped doing that for some reason cause I’m like, “Shut up.” (laughter) I’m like, “Really? That sounds great!” (laughter) And you know, actually, that phase has kind of passed. So some things, obviously some things are difficult, when I get into, when I get into, I can get into worrying about stuff and I usually just say, “Okay.” There’s a ?? of Shantideva, a great sage, I think I may have mentioned actually the last time. I’m sure you’ll all remember, when I was talking about patience, but he said something like about, he said the most brilliant thing about worrying. He said, “If there’s a problem that can’t be solved, then why should you worry about it, and if there’s a problem that can be solved, then why should you worry about it?” So mostly, and you know you can tell yourself that and beat yourself up because you’re worrying and you shouldn’t because Shantideva said not to, but I feel like most of the time, I can, I can do that, and just, yeah just go with what’s happening and not worry about all the other stuff.

All right, let’s see if I have anything else on here. I think that will probably do. Maybe I’ll just end with a little bit from the Anguttara Nikaya, which says, “I’m sure to grow old. I cannot avoid aging. I’m sure to become sick. I cannot avoid sickness. I am sure to die. I cannot avoid death. All things dear and beloved to me are subject to change and separation.” And, again, it might seem, it might not seem relentlessly optimistic, but I think what’s optimistic about it is really accepting that and just working with the actual conditions that we have rather than ones where these things don’t happen and things being driven by fear, rather than things being driven by wanting to know this, because this is a huge part, if not all of the beauty of what we are given as human beings. Yeah.

So I guess I will end my bit there. And let’s go in this direction, starting with you there.

(audience member 1)
Your appearance may be fake, but your spirit is true. And as a physician and also someone  who’s had cancer, I just have a couple of observations that you will reflect. There’s a study during ?? where people who were given?? stage they might die that did much worse than if they were given an open window. And that’s probably due to the fact of, when you have that open window, you have hope, you don’t have that anxiety. And another I think very big part is that when you can let go of control, you can let go of anxiety, you can open your heart over what’s happening around you and that allows you to enjoy things that you may not have seen because of the blindness that’s there. And that’s a really big part of making the most of your life and enjoying your life and enjoying the moments and being as real as you can be with people around you and open to what they have to give you as well. And what you say really reflects that. And thank you for sharing.

Thank you.

(audience member 2)
Thank you for being so transparent and genuine in this. It’s a great gift.  So I find that most of my worries and concerns relate to the future -- saving enough money because, you know, I assume I’m going to live long and taking good care of my health because I assume I’m going to live long, and you know, creating strong bonds and friendships because I want people around me, because I’m going to live long. How would you say having the future effectively removed from the equation contributes to this sense of calm and peace and joy that you have related to us?

Yeah, I think that that’s absolutely it. If you, if you don’t know if there’s going to, if it’s very unclear if there’s going to be a future. I mean, unless, then the big worry is not having a future and if that’s a huge issue as well. So I suppose it could kind of go either way? And I’ve noticed that a lot with people. Yeah, putting aside money is a big thing, and what you’re doing about your health and all that. And I think all those things, you know, we do have, all of us have a future. So, in a way it makes sense to do those things. I suppose there’s something about, I guess to me there’s something about the light touch of.. And besides I hope there’s better ways to do this than getting cancer. But somehow just having that awareness that, “Okay, I’m preparing for old age in whatever way, and also, I don’t know if I’m going to get to old age. I don’t know if my friends who I’m bonding with are going to  get to  old age. And somehow just having that more be a part of that reality. And also realizing that anxiety, I think in a way, I think being aware of anxiety is a really positive mindfulness practice. Because I do feel like since I’ve kind of chilled out and said, “Oh, I might be dead in a while, you know, whatever,” I feel so much anxiety from people and it just, it seems so painful. So I guess, just, and in a way, just looking into that, what  is that about, what is it that I feel that kind of has to happen, or that I… what is, what is the fear. And really looking into that fear. Yeah, something like that.

(audience member 3)
Well, first I wanted to thank you for your generosity and courage in coming and sharing this with us. And I’m strongly ?? quiet because I’ve gone through two of these so far without, with okay consequences.  Four and a half years ago with prostate cancer, which I decided eventually to do nothing and now it seemingly is gone away. And a few years ago, with colon cancer, for which I was operated on. Three days ago I just got my second year CAT scan and now it seems okay. And my experiences with that are that it has. First of all, I make judgments about myself, critical judgments.

Like what kind of judgments?

(audience member 3)
Well, I’ve increased my generosity and my forgiveness and my gratitude, but not as much as I should have. (laughter)

That’s true of me by the way, too. Yeah.

(audience member 3)
And secondly, there are moments I’m walking outside and I say, “Wow. It’s so beautiful,” just the trees and flowers and I’m really noticing the present. But then I go back to being mindless most of the time. And another piece is one you just talked about, which is anxiety, so I get you know 3 or 4 month check-ups and this goes back to 1983 with HIV check-ups and every time I go through this, you know, intense anxiety and I think I shouldn’t be doing that. It’s wrong. I am going to die anyway, so what is it?

You shouldn’t be having the anxiety.

(audience member 3)
Right. And so I think what you said is what I’ve come to in my saner moments. And also the other thing about anxiety I also think is true, this was some of Buddhism. First of all, it’s not wrong to have it, it’s just sort of what arises. But secondly, if you examine it, how does it feel in my body, what’s going on in my mind? Lo and behold, it generally disappears. And a third piece is that at least for me I think this is pretty widespread, our anxiety level doesn’t have much to do with the level of the threat. Saber-tooth tiger, a rash on my finger (laughter).

Same thing.

(audience member 3)
And so it’s encouraged me to do more practice. Though I’ve also noticed that meditation is not one that I’m very, I don’t seem to be able to advance much on but there’s other kinds of ways of practicing. And the other thing is I’ve become a volunteer at the Zen hospice, which I’d been thinking of for years, but finally I said, “All right, I should do this.” I did this a year and a half ago, and I’m still there. And that’s about, And when you come to terms with death in some way, I think it’s desirable, or I should, probably more bullshit, to be able to just accept it. And then there’s the annoying little thought, but what if I’m hit by an earthquake or a car, like that, you know, and all of this effort will be useless. So those are some experiences.(32:48)

Yeah, there’s a bunch of interesting things in what you said. I think one of them is, it’s like when even wisdom or Buddhist practice or whatever you want to call it, then becomes this stick with which you beat yourself for being too anxious, or whatever. I think that’s like a really great thing to bring into awareness as well. And you know when that arises, look at what are the conditions for that, what kind of conditions give rise to that. And in a way I do think there’s a sense of, I mean you know you can kind of go wrong with this, but there is a sense of like everything is fine the way it is. Or at least it makes sense, the rules and how they apply to each of us, and to how we are, and what’s happening with our body and the way we think. All these conditions are coming together. And so we can try to create, you know, try to be creative with the conditions if we want to maybe have a bit less of that beating of ourselves and all that.

But I mean in general, like working at a hospice sounds like a great thing to do. I had a really, I’ll just say this very briefly, I, a friend of mine takes care of a 91-year-old woman who’s been in bed for 10 years and she’s just a lovely, lovely woman, and she’s super Catholic. She’s from Belfast and she prays for people. She is concerned with suffering and when she knows somebody’s suffering she’ll just pray and pray and pray for them. And this is somebody who can barely move. And I just really, I mean I could’ve gone and visited her and said, “God, I am such a jerk. Like I have no problems compared to this lady. What’s the deal here?” But I didn’t do that. I thought, “Wow. I can walk around. I can totally walk around. I can walk for two miles. And what a blessing that is.” So I think also in a way just being around people, I mean we do, we do, it’s a form of conceit in Buddhism. We do compare ourselves to other people. So if we’re around all these people running ?? lungs, you know, whatever, we’re going to feel really sick and disabled? If we’re around just a big range of people, because there is this huge range of ability and illness and sickness. A lot of times in this culture I think we hide away, maybe people who don’t live up to  certain standards of youth and beauty, so you just end up feeling like a jerk all the time. Anyway, too many threads that I can’t keep track of, but thank you. That was interesting, what you said. Okay, you’re next and these two. I’m not sure how much time we have, but yeah. (35: 36)

(audience member 4)
Thank you for sharing your story with us. I’m glad I’m here and was able to listen to you. When you said ??about what is happening to you, you said something that I connected to. You said that you’re not afraid of dying. I’m not afraid of dying either ?? many times. However,  I’m 41 years old. I just turned 41 a week ago and during this time I have seen so many people dying around me, I became friendless, they all died. ??was fully dramatic seeing them dying . He did not want to die, he wasn’t ready to die, he had family. ?? “I don’t want to die, knowing ??? Why is that you’re not afraid of dying. I want to compare your thoughts with my thoughts ?? why are the reasons, one or two reasons  that you’re not afraid of dying. ??

That’s a very interesting question. I guess that the first thing that comes to mind is that I don’t, apparently people in this situation have a bucket list. Like before I die, I must visit Sweden, or wherever, and (laughter). And I, there are places I’d like to visit and there are things I’d like to do, but they don’t seem that important. I guess I just feel like death happens, and I’ve had a good life and I don’t have a choice. If, if , but you know, I do take very good care of myself, also, so, but if that’s what happens, I don’t have a choice. And I also think, you know, life is hard. We gotta deal with a lot of stuff all the time, zoom, zoom, zoom. Death, I’m done, you’ve got to carry on. (laughter) And I might look disgusting when I die, but I don’t care, I’m not going to see it. You guys are going to have to look at it. (laughter) So, anyway, that’s kind of off the top of my head, but how about yours?

(audience member 4)
I think I have ??I have love, and I have been loved back. I love my family and  my family loves me. I can just die ?? I am who I am.

Thank you. There are two over here. What ??

(audience member  5)
Part of my journey around life has been to embrace grief as loss, and I felt like I came here to sort of just volunteer as a support person with the AIDS epidemic, and the reason why I came is because I felt like I was fending off grief and loss and that that was so much a part of life that I couldn’t allow myself to feel it and feel alive at the same time. So I just wondered what part of that experience has played in that process of your illness. Like, ever since the last line I think of that quote you read about that the things that we love are going to leave, we’re going to leave. And then there’s that gap in between loving and leaving.

Right. I haven’t experienced a lot of death of other people in my life. And I’ve had to navigate saying, you know, “It’s cool, I’m cool with dying” to people who really don’t want to hear that, and kind of realizing, my experience of whether I’m dying or not is just going to be completely different for someone else, like. Anyway, I’ve stopped talking that way around other people. But, yeah, in terms of like, what’s happened in the city, people losing all their friends, I haven’t actually had that experience. I did briefly work at the Zen hospice, which was a very strong experience in my life. The first day when I went in, there was a dead  body there. Someone had just died like 20 minutes before. But, yeah, I don’t feel like that’s been a big part of what I’ve worked with. It’s been more relating to my own death and other, interacting with other people around that. But I’m sure that will come as well… Is there anything else you wanted to say about that?

(audience member 5)
I just want to thank you because there’s of course this sickness and everyone around me is falling apart and so I’m ?? facing that. ??you talk about your life, your journey.

Did somebody, I don’t know, was it you or was it here..

(audience member 6)
You said something about people talking about fighting and I think it’s an awful phrase, the war on cancer, there’s supposed to be a war on drugs. The vocabulary eliminates other possibilities. We might be considered lazy, or cowards if we don’t fight, when in fact there’s a whole range of possible things. Thank you.

(audience member 7)
Well, I, I had a similar experience to you I think. I was, I’m 63, and I ??sort of converted to HIV about 6  years ago. And I used to be like a counselor for HIV negative guys. He talked about how ?? you know, and they were on one side and I was on the other side. Now all of a sudden, I’m on that side. I switched roles and I told people around me, my close friends, “Gee, I’ve got HIV.” And they said, “Gee, that’s so sad, especially at this time in your life, that you would have gone through your whole adult life, and now you’re, all of a sudden, you’ve got this terrible thing.” But my experience is that since I got HIV, my life has opened up. And I was on a journey, sort of undefined journey, before, and now all of a sudden I have people looking after me, I have doctors who are monitoring my health, I have support groups. In San Francisco, there’s all kinds of, I’m part of a community. And it was something I felt like it was sort of missing before. It’s weird. And today my life has really, and I’m starting to look at things in my emotional life that I never took care of before. And now people are expecting me to take care of them, like how are you feeling? Are you feeling okay? And like I don’t know if anyone ever asked me that before. I was just having to be brave before. I was having to battle on with my, as a healthy person. Now I am entitled to talk about my feelings and make it stick. And I was talking to a friend after I got HIV and he was saying, “Gee, people like you with this disability is so sad that society,” you know, whatever. And I said, “You’re talking about people like me with disabilities?” I said, “Hey, just take me off your list. (laughter) I’m not part of that.”

That doesn’t sound like a good list to be on. (laughter)

(audience member 7)
I’m a lucky person. And I feel like my life has blossomed in many ways since I got HIV. And I feel healthier now than I felt for …

Me, too.
Thank you.
One more?

(audience member 8)
Suvanna, thank you so much. Guys, you, know, this is our landlady. (laughter)

Yeah, goddammit.

(audience member 8)
You may never have prayed for your landlord. (laughter) When we first started talking about setting up this talk, you said you would speak about the preciousness of life, and I just want to thank you. You have done that. You embody an equanimity that is rare and you’re a real privilege to be around. And I’m sure that I speak for everyone when I say we wish you years of robust health. ?? Thank you very much.

Thank you. Thank you all. You are lovely.

(audience member )
Thank you very much, for coming, and we will never let you die ugly. (laughter)

1 comment:

  1. after catching up on your blog i'm going to go listen to your talk and draw. looking forward to hearing your voice. . xoxoxo