Jeffrey’s cancer and community journey

Mango Baby-eating panda by Rhonda Winter
Mango Baby-eating panda by Rhonda Winter

Jeffrey Betcher

The further from home my cancer journey takes me, the more I land right back at the gardens in Bayview.

While visiting Lex in Florida last week, I tried to sketch a panda which turned out no better than if a panda itself had done it.  When I returned home, a letter from Rhonda Winter, Latona Garden co-founder and now German resident, was in my mailbox.  It was exactly what I had pictured in my meditations about a mythical animal keen to eat a mango sized tumor stuck up my butt.

(Visit www.caringbridge/jeffreybetcher for gory (gorier) details. Point is, this daily sort of community synchronicity happens all the time.  It’s like dependable magic.

The connections between my unwieldy journey with cancer and the place I live, people I live near and others who have come through my life by way of the gardens emerge every day.

The experience so many have, that Bayview Hunters Point’s environmental and social history have bequeathed chronic and sometimes terminal health problems, has roots in reality. At the same time, I hope the internal strength of the social and cultural fabric here serves to make us healthier: a sort of karmic balance between adversity and folks coming together because life is just easier and more joyful that way.

In my reading about cancer and treatment, I’ve stumbled on serious studies and anecdotal evidence that social connections, like those that form around positive activities, can prevent disease and dramatically help those dealing with it.

Just across the Bay, in Alameda, a study by Peggy Reynolds and George Kaplan makes a case that people with the fewest social ties were three times more likely to die over a nine-year period than those who reported the most social ties. I’m not sure what that means about my getting this cancer, but it sure makes me value my neighbors as I deal with it.

And it makes me happy to share a bit of promising news with you, my neighbor near or far.  After a September diagnosis of a Stage IV “incurable” cancer, I’ve just met with researchers at UCSF Mission Bay who are conducting a clinical trial that simply didn’t exist that short time ago.  I’m not in the study yet, and there’s no guarantee (in life or cancer), but it’s hopeful.

For those of you who don’t know, Mission Bay is just up 3rd Street from where I live at Quesada Gardens, and includes a premiere cancer hospital that opened just in time to serve little ole me.  I’m privileged, and I’m grateful to be part of a caring community that is beautifully unavoidable.

2 thoughts on “Jeffrey’s cancer and community journey

  1. So glad that the bikini-clad tumor eating panda arrived safely in your mailbox after its long overseas journey. Ever since you mentioned your meditation image of the mango eating bear, it has been stuck in my head, and wanted to create my version of it for you. Very happy that it closely mirrors your own vision. The beauty, caring and love that you have helped to grow remains with Peter and me always, even way over here in Deutschland. Sending you much joy and gratitude.

    1. Hi Jeff, I am very sorry to head about your cancer I have always read footprirnts but seems that I missed about your health condition. I like what you wrote about how you see and percibe life after been diagnosed. But I totally understand even I do not have a terminal illness, but as nurse that I have been caring for terminal ill pts as a hospice nurse for long time. I have learned the importance to enjoy every minute specially with nature. As you said we all going to die we like it or not. But in the mean time enjoy every minute every second . I wish you that best and if there is anything I can help with let me know. Shoot me a email. Take care

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