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.