Tom Brokaw...
Another Dancer

One of the blessings of having to see a doctor is that, on occasion, one will find someone who is more than a doctor.  I have written about Dr. Marchand, my cardiologist, many times.  Dr. Covello is such a doctor.  He opened up my nasal cavities so that I could breathe better.  There I was ready to be taken into surgery and instead of giving me information about the procedure again, we were talking about my drive to interview Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.  Apparently, the nurse wanted to limit our conversion.  She put something in the IV, and I was out.  The surgery went fine and Dr. Covello said to make an appointment in a couple of weeks.


Dr. Covello

I returned for a check-up, which took a minute or two.  He said that I was fine.  Then we got to the real issues that interested us.  His first question was how my quest for obtaining an interview was coming with Aung San Suu Kyi, the Lady.  I updated him about where I was in the process.  I added that I also want to interview U Htin Kyaw, who is the President of Myanmar.  I expressed being driven to get both these interviews and my drive to return to Myanmar.


The Lady

Then we talked about dancing with death, Randy Pausch, Kurt Vonnegut who wrote, Slaughterhouse Five, Oliver Sachs, Don Quixote, and a long list of others who have done the dance.  We talked about each of these dancers.  I expressed my desire actually to speak with one of the people who have done the dance.  I know of a couple dozen people that have done the dance but who had in time died.  I asked Dr. Covello to give my webpage to any of his patients who had had a near death experience.  He'd keep my request in mind.

In the meantime, Dr. Covello suggested that I read an article by Tom Brokaw, which appeared in The New York Times recently.  I thanked him for his successful surgery on me but far more importantly for our discussions about the Lady and Tom Brokaw.  I returned home and went directly to Google and found Brokaw's essay, which was entitled, Learning to Live with Cancer.


A dancer with death

Brokaw has multiple myeloma, which is incurable.  When I read that, the first person I immediately thought of was Randy Pausch.  Pausch had an equally deadly pancreatic cancer.  It was Pausch who woke me up to my dancing with death due to prostate cancer and a traumatic brain injury due to a fall.  It took a long time to read Brokaw's thousand-word essay, due to floating between Pausch and my medical situation.  I spent more time reflecting on my situation that I did reading Brokaw's article.

In Brokaw's essay, he wrote about the life expectancy of patients with multiple myeloma, which is five years after diagnosis.  He has already lived 60% of his five-year prognosis.  Then he added that he has had three years of chemotherapy, spinal operation, and infusions of some type of medication to prohibit infections. 

That took me back to going the U. of Chicago for da Vinci style surgery, PSA tests, hormone therapy, and radiation treatment.  My conclusion was that after reading Brokaw's situation and mine, that I was extremely lucky.

Then I wandered off thinking about the transformative changes in my life due to both my dances and wondered what changes were made in Brokaw's life.  It didn't take long to address my wonderings.  "Age alone puts me in my twilight years; and cancer only heightens that objective reality. Yet I am not consumed by the prospect of death." 

Brokaw is doing the dance like all the other dancers that I have read and about whom I have written.   Randy Pausch, Steve Jobs, Miguel Cervantes, Kurt Vonnegut, Oliver Sachs, John Donne, Alan Seeger, John Kennedy, Steve Biko, Carl Sagan, Abraham Lincoln, David Hume, Saul Alinsky, Henry David Thoreau, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Alexander the Great to name several.

Then Brokaw added, "This cancer ordeal is by far the worst, though it has redeeming qualities...Cancer-free people are blessed, but they are not always aware of the dedication, compassion and genius of those I've come to know who are daily engaged in the war against this elusive, pernicious enemy."  He is correct about cancer-free patients and others who haven't done the dance.  They are all alive at one level, but they aren't truly alive.  Dancing with death causes the dancer to live. 

I'm planning to return to Myanmar as soon as Daw Aung San Suu Kyi grants me an interview.  Interestingly, I would like to discuss with her how dancing with death affected her life.  Nonetheless, I am more alive now than I was in the 60s during the civil rights movement.  A part of my being driven is tied directly to having done the two dances.

Burma flag

Burmese independence flag

Visit the Burma Independence page to read more about this topic.

On Seeing the Light

On Seeing the Light

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The Last Lecture

The Last Lecture

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Dancing with Death

Dancing with Death

Visit the Dancing with Death page to read more about this topic.

Don Quixote

"Don Quixote"

Visit the "Don Quixote" page to read more about this topic.