Our second-story bedroom window looks out at a group of deciduous trees. (I’ll post a pic on-line at some point…)
Now that the leaves have fallen, I pass the time in bed by watching the squirrels run across the branches. The branches sway and the squirrel sometimes pauses. But I’m constantly awed at the ability of the squirrels to stay balanced on such skinny limbs, and the ability of the branches to stay strong and hold the squirrel.
This season, we’ve had many turkeys in our neighborhood. Up close, they are much larger than I imagined. From our kitchen window, I can see them nibbling on the kale and chard in our planter:
The other day, I noticed a group of turkeys at our neighbor’s house and was amazed to see them walk across the top of on a fence.
And then, I saw one nesting in a tree!
Larger and heavier than a squirrel, I was even more in awe of their ability to balance, and of the tree’s ability to hold them.
I recently received the results of my CT scan, and was thrilled to hear that everything looks stable. I know that I am lucky to be alive this far out from my initial diagnosis, and at this time of year, I think back to the time I was initially diagnosed.
For me, the roughly 8 weeks between my diagnosis and start of chemo was unsettling (to say the least). It felt like I was facing a death sentence and unable to do anything about it.
During this time, though, one of my friends sent an article to me about a scientist named Stephen Jay Gould.
Stephen Jay Gould was a professor of zoology at Harvard University, and a specialist in the theory of evolution. In July 1982, at the age of 40, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare and incurable cancer, with a median survival time of eight months after diagnosis.
The distribution curve looks like this (adapted from the graph on page 12 of the excellent book Anticancer by David Servan-Schreiber):
This meant that half of the population diagnosed with mesothelioma died before eight months.
“But the other half, on the right, naturally spreads out beyond eight months, and the curve … always has a long tail that can extend to a considerable length of time. … Stephen Jay Gould died twenty years later of another disease.”
He figured that someone’s got to be on that skinny end. It might as well be him.
I decided to adopt his mindset, and while I have wobbled on those skinny branches from time to time, I’m gratefully still here.
The squirrels and the turkeys remind me that although it might look crazy and impossible to balance on those skinny branches, they do it. They inspire me.
And it occurs to me, frequently, that you are helping to keep those branches strong, and to remind me that sometimes, they sway in the wind but it is all good. Thank you.
With love and gratitude,