This post will probably fail in every way, because I’m struggling to find the right words to express the gratitude I hold for my family of friends, who came through in the best, most necessary, most unexpected way this morning.
I dropped Laura off at work – right after I was lamenting about the continued financial difficulty I’m navigating in the face of cancer treatments, not making rent each month and having to swallow my pride and borrow money from her, harboring the embarrassment and frustration of not being able to provide for my son’s needs, or even contribute to something as simple as going to the movies or buying dinner – and as she was getting out of the car she barely veiled her mischevious excitement through a stifled smile when she quickly blurted out,
“Check your email between 9 and 10 today!”
Completely unsure what that meant, I went about my morning as usual, knocking out a 10 mile run, shoving breakfast in my mouth on the way to the coffee shop, then setting up and getting to work in an attempt to tie up all loose ends before surgery renders me useless on Tuesday.
Then all of a sudden an email notification popped up, something about Paypal.
I opened it to see a donation made directly to me, an amount of which immediately lifted an emotional weight that has been so pressing, so relentless, so frightening, that it felt physical. I stared at the donation amount for a bit, trying to process what this meant for all my current financial worries and then after experiencing this incredible weight lifting from my shoulders, I felt…embarrassed, humbled, inadequate, and worried.
But in the best way possible.
I felt all these emotions, because I have been quietly struggling through unavoidable financial restrictions for many months now, of which countless cancer patients must experience, because no matter how physically well we may be doing, the financial burden and restrictions to work (whether to stay eligible for aid or other reasons) are crippling. I’ve heard stories where upper middle class families turned into welfare recipients over night. I’ve heard stories of individuals denied treatment at the check-in counter when payments couldn’t be processed. I’ve heard so many difficult stories of previous security and comfort wiped away in the face of cancer’s financial burdens. And although I’ve been staying on top of my burdens, they have periodically slipped again and again as I wait for each surgery to allow me to work without restriction as I have in the past.
But I don’t mean to dwell on a “woe is me” story.
I just want to convey how incredibly important this donation is to my emotional stability right now, and all those feelings I expressed above, the embarrassment, humility, and worry, are not an extension of ingratitude, but rather a different kind of concern, of being unable to reciprocate this unbelievable gesture. I know I won’t be able to convey how appreciative I am that these individuals came together and compromised their own financial state to support mine. I do NOT take that lightly.
To give credit where credit is due, two good friends of mine from the Strong Hearts Vegan Power running team, of which I am a part, facilitated this benefit on my behalf without my knowledge. They put out a call to the team and solicited donations to help support me as an individual, and I continue to be without words for this effort.
For those that don’t know our story, the SHVP team formed around a Ragnar Relay a couple years ago, during which we realized we had developed an incredible community and tool of vegan advocacy. From there the community of friends grew and grew and…well…continues to grow. Our team, turned community, turned solid family of friends now probably numbers 50+. Through these friendships we have supported our individual endeavors outside the team and I’ve been both floored by the generosity shown to others and inspired to become a more generous and empathetic person myself, through the example of their efforts as a team and individuals. Without reservation I can say I’ve never been part of a better group of individuals than SHVP.
But I expect nothing from them aside from reciprocated friendship and amusing Facebook banter. So as this donation now rests in my hands, I have the responsibility to use it as effectively as possible to manage my life while this next cancer treatment renders me relatively useless, but, even more so, to also continue this manner of reciprocation back to them and to others to my complete ability. This is the best burden I can ever imagine shouldering.
I want so say to them, again and again (and am doing so here), that I am so inexpressibly grateful for this donation, that you all are amazing individuals and as a team we’re like an actual Voltron of veganism, destroying stereotypes, exploitation, and apathy wherever we may find them. And when I despair of the world, and find little solace in any action I take, I can look to our example and know that whatever horridness the world continues to create, it’s not of our doing. This donation is a small example of the power we both contain and share.
And to reiterate, it would be an offense to simply express my gratitude to you all and leave it at that. This is both irresponsible and insulting to your action. What will only matter is that I use this donation as responsibly as possible and then reproduce this action to the best of my abilities going forward, so I’ll promise that to you now, that whatever personal compromise or sacrifice you made to support me, I’ll find a way to reciprocate.
I want you to know, all of you, what a donation like this does for me and does for others. While I’m unable to not only work, but to simply breathe on my own, I can’t create the funds that pay the mortgage, pay the utilities, buy food, etc. These aren’t the extravagances and excesses of our lives, but the basic necessities of survival. Without these, what does one have? How does one survive? And financial support will allow me to cover all these for a few months, letting my body heal, adapting to the unforeseen physical complications of such an incredibly extensive surgery that destroys my body, robs me of any creative inspiration or even the drive to complete the most basic tasks. A donation like this allows me to focus on recovery, to find the time to build my body back up, to get stronger and stronger in order to work again, to be creatively inspired, to find my way out of dark emotional places and back to positivity. This donation will also allow me to retain some sense of dignity in providing for my son, who is currently in need of dental work, of which I have struggled to provide. This donation will allow me to help in that regard, and that benefit to my emotional state is immeasurable. This donation will also help me dig myself out of some unavoidable holes of debt I incurred this past year, setting me up for more stability past surgery.
Out of appropriate discretion, I will spare you of financial details, but suffice to say this donation is less about the number and more about the emotional comfort you have afforded me by helping me pay for both the necessities of living and the integrity and responsibility I try to maintain for my son. There are no expressions of gratitude worthy enough to reciprocate.
As I navigate these last few days before this third surgery, I’ll be thinking how best to reciprocate to you all in action, how to equalize your gesture in kind and towards others. For now, I can promise you that this enables me to more quickly become physically able, physically strong, and back to running with you in the future. And when that happens, I’ll express all this again face to face.
With fingers crossed, I’ll enter this surgery with the measured hope that when I wake up, I’ll be that much further away from more treatment and that much closer to the financial stability of self-reliant work, knowing that in the interim, you have taken care of me and my needs until then.
“Thank you” sounds like an insult to the gratitude I feel towards you.