Monday, October 29, 2007

Z is for the Zest for life

This weekend I met someone really amazing. His name is Zachary DeRidder.
Zach competed in several triathalons, 5K Races and rode 100 miles on his bike this summer.
  • Do I find this amazing because these kind of athletic endeavors are uncommon? Yes.
  • Am I slightly in awe of that kind of athletic ambition? That's a given.
But when I tell you that Zach competed in these feats of strength and endurance all while undergoing treatment for cancer, you might sit back in awe yourself.
He is one of only ten people in this country with a rare form of liver cancer called fibro lamellar variant liver cancer.

It's started from a random email from a random stranger who thought Zach would be a good candidate for the chapter of I am trying to get together here in Rochester. I followed it up with an email to Zach, one that was never returned. Something in my gut told me there was something besides ordinary procrastination that led to my unanswered email. So I casually followed it up with an email to his friend, Michael.

Apparently Zach had other things to attend the fight of his life. I would have expected no more than a vague summary when I got an email back from Michael. Strangers don't really need to know the whole story, right? Certainly, I never expected Michael to invite me to go to the hospital to meet Zach. So that's just what I did.

Zach, his friend Michael and I chatted from chairs in the lobby of his hopsital floor. Through pain he's still smiling and he still has hope that he will be back on his bike.
He has called this floor home for more than a month. I watched him waved down a passing doctor and openly chat with her about the next steps in his treatment. He joked and pointed longingly at the candy bars in the vending machine. He's fighting with everything he has...and hasn't forgotten his passion or what he sees for himself beyond the walls of the hospital. His dreams are just beginning to take shape and ZHope, or, the foundation that his friends set up to honor him is just getting off the ground.

Talking to Zach, you get the idea that he sees this cancer as just a road block. With an attitude and a vision like his you'd never think he was facing incredible odds just in his own survival.
While talking to him about I2Y he got an incredible light in his eyes. He started talking about activities we should do in our chapter of I2Y when he is well.
Could we go camping as a know stuff like that? he asked.
He seemed amazed that other young adult cancer survivors were uniting in such a way. You see Zach hasn't had access to a computer for a while and hadn't heard there was an organization like this. As a matter of fact, months ago while he could have searched the internet for support for young adults with cancer, he was way too like a machine. He was too busy defying the odds. He still is. Tomorrow's plans are still there.

If you read this with purpose or intent... or even if you happened upon this by accident, pray for Zach and keep him in your thoughts. He is hoping to receive a liver's his shot at beating cancer.
Visit ZHope and learn about Zach.
Visit I2Y and learn why we are too young for this.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Big Brother or Big Boy--servin up the fun

Those Dutch people. They sure know how to do it.
If you are student at the University of Wageningen you know what I am talking about.

Apparently the innovative minds at UoW decided the TGIFridays down the road just wasn't cuttin' it and created their own restaurant that bears the faint scent of Big Brother.
NOTE: Sarcasm. I have no idea if the Netherlands has a TGIFridays chain.

Imagine dining at a table where cameras are trained on your plate of linguine. From within the walls of a hidden control room guys in white lab coats with clipboards are watching your every move, your every bite. It seems this campus restaurant is more along the lines of a research facility. It's a little creepy. Sure, they operate this eatery under the guise of observing dining behavior, consumer tastes and predictable patterns. And yes, thankfully the whole thing is not done surreptitiously. Before sloshing down that soft drink and salty appetizer you must first sign a release form, consenting to be watched and observed. Takers? Anyone?

This whole story just led me to a lot of procrastinating...errr... I mean thinking. Overall, this makes me a little queasy. It's how I feel about that overzealous videographer at a wedding who asks you to say a few words about the happy couple just after you crammed a shovel full of frosting smeared cake in your mouth. Eating and videography should not be combined. Crunching, munching and slurping noises should not be captured with a boom mic.

Maybe it's because I abhor most reality t.v., maybe because the Dutch kind of perplex me. Besides tulips, wooden shoes, windmills and legalized prostitution in Amsterdam...they really haven't made a name for themselves yet. Now in the future we might be able to thank the Dutch for an improved dining experience...only after hours of videotape prove that:

  • Yes, some of us do talk with our mouths open

  • We did take back that extra dollar bill from the tip

  • Patrons are indeed responsible for trick salt shakers

If this important research helps you help others help us to a better overall experience eating out in the future...I guess so be it. Consider this though; beware on a whole other level of the friend who during a meal asks you to "go Dutch".

If all else fails talk about the weather

I am careful not to place too much reliance on weather trends lately. Rochester weather in general has a tendency to disappoint anyway. But if it gets to late November or December and I spot someone wearing Bermuda shorts and Birkenstocks (no socks, a.ka. "summer" Birks) and the patio tables are still lining the Park Ave restaurant...I guess I'll start to wonder what doom the impending winter will hold.

Predictability is a key feature of the seasons. I should expect that in October I have to start pulling out those cableknits and turning the dusty knob of my thermostat. Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining at all. I like the fact that I can enjoy sunshine, blue skies and a string of 80 degree days. But it spoils you. For example, the forecast for this week calls for upper 60 degree - 70 degree weather. Not bad, right? Well recently I heard a friend grumbling that it was going to be "too cold to lay out." No joke. Unless I read my map and my state tax refund wrong...we do not live in Florida. Yes, Rochester NY. Land of opportunity. Oppurtunity for blizzards.

In September I was on top of things. Or so I thought. I stashed my summer outfits in rubbermaid containers up in the attic...exchanging them for a bevvy of sweaters. I soon learned my lesson...hasty wardrobe overhalls are particularly dangerous. Want to beckon weather change? Change the contents of your closet. I subsequently, trudged back up to the attic, retrieved a few relevant summer-like pieces and tried to make do with the slightly puzzling temperatures. I even left my air conditioner in the bedroom window. As irony would have it, that week the weather dropped to the 40s. The chill finally set in. My local meterologist is beginning to aggravate me...nothing against him.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

So I hear, there are a few approaches to life. There are also more than a few theories about the "best way" to approach life...and which approach is best.

Appoach #1

"I want to live on an island of mango trees and happy little creatures. I do not see a reason to worry or fret about anything. I want to feel the sunshine on my face (never worrying about the ever present threat of global warming)"

This would be classified under the heading "state of denial". Some would call this approach overly idealistic.

Okay let's say the world was this way....happy mango trees, creatures and sun..
Would there still be reason for conflict?
Uh yeah... You on...

Approach #2

"Gosh, no one has it as bad as me. I hate this island. What the hell do I want with mangos- hell, I'm allergic...and I'm getting a really bad burn from that damn yellow ball in the sky."

This would be classified under the heading of "pessimist with a penchant for passing it on"
Please SEE--- Debby Downer.

Approach #3

"I think this island has its good points. Many thousands, millions of years ago I believe it may have been an isthmus...perhaps, and therefore time has caused its change. It's quite amazing really. I'm sure that long ago there was a land bridge allowing these animals, marvelous specimens, to roam the island. And these wonderfully vitamin rich fruits....those mangos, well they must have been brought in by seeds caught in the matted fur of the primitive animals that came here. And oh, look at that sun. Do you think this magnificent star of the solar system realizes what life it gives this little microcosm?"

This would be classified under "obnoxiously intellectual". Life philosopher who theorizes and pontificates, but holds others back from just taking in an experience for what it is.

Approach #4

" I got to just get over this... so my island is flooded. So the mangos are all rotted. I should just get off my duff and just start doin' somethin'. Maybe I'll cut this useless mango tree down and build a boat...and get out of here."

This would be classified under "realist with a plan". This approach might be seen as the ideal, that person who sees what needs to be done, doesn't waste time and just gets down to it.

Now your question might be where do I see myself in the grand scheme of this brief run-down? I guess the answer is all of them. To be honest with myself and my experience, I've seen myself using all of these approaches at least for small amounts of time. Situations arise sometimes that bring out the best and the worst in all of us. To truly be honest with ourselves we must admit that moods as well as circumstances sometimes influence our unique approaches to life. Can we say we are entirely an optimist? Entirely a pessimist? Or are we a combination of both?

Three years of almost constant medical upheaval (many more if you count B.C. Before Cancer)
can really lead you on a roller coaster. I guess what I'm really trying to say is that just like anyone I have good days and I have bad days. Glass half-full or empty? Do I sit on the bleachers or make waves in the pool?