No One Fights Alone
"But the attitude of faith is to let go, and become open to truth, whatever it might turn out to be." - Alan Watts
I thought I'd start with thise quote from one of my favorite philosophers because it describes in essence what life in general has been for me (and perhaps all of you) and especially this past month or so. A daily venture of faith in the religious sense and simly trusting that you next step, like the last, will take you to where you need to go.
A formal hello to you all my friends, family, acquiantances and strangers, it's Damon. Perhaps an introduction may be a bit antiquated for all those who may receive this, but every novel has to start somewhere.
I must confess that I never expected all that life has brought to me. All the blessings of community and adventure, collocated with all the obstacles that we face. And to add to that, I am not quite sure to go about this. Yes the logistics of posting, and sharing are quite simple. I'd be lying if I were to tell you that this didn't take swallowing pride, that while my heart is warm with the blessings of community, a bit of shame accompanies of not being able to figure things out on my own.
For those of you who do not know my story (or whose story I have not had the pleasure of hearing), I find myself sharing this venture, due to a recent cancer diagnosis. While my spiritual and community foundation is as solid as its ever been, monetarily I find myself in a bit of a purgatory.
Perhaps for these things people are to share why should donate, what amazing things a charity could do with the resource, so on and so forth. But for me, I simply aspire to live. To yes breathe with a heart beat, brain function but also the ability to laugh love and share.
So why me, and why this? I find that, in this vulnerable and humble time in my life, it is so dificult to ask for monetary support. As a recent college graduate and a young man, the expectation is for all the stars to align and with hard work and determination, for things to pay off.
But with being sick, along with the other task of job cover letters, applications, GRE prep and all the other adventures of the adult world, I find myself at an impass.
So I guess to be blunt, this post, this page, this venture is to seek support for housing, food, medical expenses, etc. I know bucket list are a life long venture to be reflected upon with each new milstone, but given the current situation, wouldn't it be cool to be able to cross a few things off. While I have no honest idea what amount should be the "goal", I decided to choose a number recommended after talking with those close to me in life.
A thank you in advance to you all, not for any donation you would consider but for reading my story, and for taking the time to experience my journey, if even for a brief moment.
While I have no idea what to expect with this journey, I thank you all for sharing it with me.
Damon St. Thomas
After a week filled with learning that all that comes with learning to love, embrace and appreciation one's stories and those of others, this past weekend I had the opportunity to meet one of my own personal heroes.
Ladies and gentlemen, please meet my dear friend Amanda. In Fall 2016, in the midst of trying to make sense of my new diagnosis, and what it would mean for my life, as if designed by divine intervention, in steps this opportunity for community. Amanda, one of few others I have encountered who share the diagnosis of cardiac sarcoma, reached out to me. Having been fighting this battle longer than I have, it has been a blessing time and time again to learn from her experience. Over 1,000 miles away, she has served as a beacon of hope and understanding when times of this cancer journey have been at its darkest.
Amanda has continued to encourage and inspire me. When cancer comes to take what you have worked and strived so hard to accomplish in life, you must continue to fight, to persevere. Having this summer off from treatment and endless doctors appointment has truly allowed me to immerse myself in sacred community with so many wonderful people. For each new experience, each embrace, each new memory made, a chance to breathe new life.
In just a few short weeks, the regimen of needles, chemo, nausea, and fatigue resumes again as I embark on the next steps of this journey. I’d be lying to imply that I am not just as petrified, but fear provides the opportunity for reliance. For myself, my fellow cancer patients, and for all of your, regardless of the obstacles and strife you encounter in life, I encourage you to continue to seed deep routes of community, embracing your story and all that comes with it.
My humblest thanks, and gratitude for continued support, for every act of love. Until next we meet,
Love your friend Damon
For most of us, after a certain point, the traditional accolades associated with achievement don’t have the mystique of hoisting up a Lombardi trophy or a Stanley Cup. No pennate race and for simplicity sake, no pep rally in preparation for a successful homecoming game.
For some of you, it may be getting that promotion at work, getting into that dream college, making the famed sports team. I submit to you that the daily grind is far less glamorous. In trying to find the accurate words to depict the continue daily grind, balancing in multiple jobs for some, school or all that comes with raising children. For some of you, sharing the common journey, that daily goal is just making it through.
I fear at times I’ve become so desensitized to the experience. Appointments, blood draws and round after round of chemo. The sensation ice water like medicine running through veins, to help you feel alive. Mistake me not, as this is no declaration of a pity party and no white flag will ever be raised. In all the powerlessness I feel in making sense of so much unknown and ambiguity despite such marvelous medical advancements, there is strength in the acknowledgment.
There is so much blissful ignorance in living each day as if it didn’t exist. Out of sight, out of mind, yet walking in circles. I am empowered by that humanity. As much exasperation that comes with feeling caught in the monotony, truly life goes on. Embraced and comforted knowing that each day survived, is an opportunity to thrive. Each day a chance to resurrect anew. It is at my core, I see that after walking so stoically alone (at least perceivably), I’ve become a witness to my own life, at times relinquishing control and direction out of fear.
I share this because of the cathartic release it provides. Much like a long overdue cry, a heart to heart with loved ones, an awakening reality to self. In providing an outward expression of the at times anguish I feel internally caused by fear and uncertainty. I understand this articulation may be somber, if not a tad bit off-putting. I’d be lying if I said cancer, illness, struggle ever will be an easy conversation, but it is a common one. Speak its name so that it may be known. Doing so does not give rise or speak it into existence, but frees the mind. So often interactions with myself or with other serve as a carefully calculated dance sidestepping or overindulging. It is still my life, not brought to a screeching halt by cancer, it’s just along for the ride.
This song brings me to tears, not for the melodic tones, deeply rooted lyrics, but because it has reminded me of how callous this life can make us. This emotional constipation can be so cold. Tears stream down bringing with it healing rain. It is freeing to know that our spirit allows us to do so. As I empty my heart into this note, I ask for you to do the same. In your interactions with strangers and loved ones. Hold tight to the things in life you cherish, yet being enriched by the release. The weight of the world is lifted for me when I am able to stop concerning myself with why or how, and ‘with words of wisdom, let it be’. Truly understanding who may come in and out of my life pales in significance to the value of the journey.
From every valley, there is a mountain. In whatever you aspire to do, may that goal drive you, but not define you. I don’t wish to reach any such finish line for the sake of the accomplishment. I wish to live, to say I lived. So many interactions are had, commodified and become routine. When did an expression of love become so defined tangibly with a click or like? An acknowledgment of self and others, beyond labels of who and what they may be, that value cannot be defined, measures beyond compare. In all of our struggles, embrace the process, knowing that even when it comes our time to rest, the torch will carry on. The flame of our spirit carries on, never alone.
For so long, I longed a sense of the familiar. Life had become a constant shake-up of everything that I had come to know as the usual. Yet in time, the dust settles as the various aspects of life start to fall into place. As for myself, while I admittedly miss the seemingly never-ending opportunities to connect with people. The engagement and outreach from old friends, for closure or penance perhaps, and the spark of each new conversation with a new person in my life as I walked what became a very public journey of trying to achieve good health and well being. As the world turns, the news cycles of our lives refresh, things returned to normal, and I was able to resume a familiar and happy place out of the spotlight. I'm far too awkward of a human for that continuous platform. Life progressed, as did my health and for the better for quite a while. Keep moving forward.
Indeed the old does become too familiar, yet for now, I don't feel the fond recollection of a simpler time. That is to say, without much reason or rhyme, that the journey begins again. What I had considered and what had become routine blood work, scans, and testing using medical jargon I don't feel I'll ever fully understand, revealed the progress I had assumed to not quite so.
And to be direct as a literary labyrinth would not be the best, cancer is not finished with me yet. Addressing concerns of metastization, the body parts it may spread and the impact on life as a whole has stopped me in my tracks.
I would venture to say that despite this medical setback, I am so much further ahead in life than I was a year ago. The knowledge and wisdom this venture has granted me, the community of uplifting love and support, the experience of a life well lived.
Just when I got used to having hair again. I wish I had more to say, to muster a solution or plan of action, but the virtue of patience I must embrace.
Find peace, my restless soul. Be still my beating heart, be still.
Have you ever had one of those moments in life started to make sense? That even if just for a few moments everything that we as individuals and as a collective community put in countless hours of hard work and perseverance while sacrificing hours of relaxation and sleep, would appear to come to fruition.
Well, that is what these past few months have provided that for me. From supporting those engaging in the sacrament of baptism and confirmation, being pleasantly overwhelmed by the experience of sitting in synagogue, my first Jewish wedding, a couple of road trips to see family and even a solar eclipse.
Courage is not the absence of fear, but the awareness that something else is more important. That being said and being able to realize these words at they apply to my life, I have been able to overcome much in this most recent stage of my life.
As of a few weeks ago, chemo is in the rear view mirror (and hopefully for good). I feel healthy as I have been a long while. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous or anxious about the next stage of treatment, whether that is radiation or a procedure. Can't move forward in this life while standing still.
I feel blessed to be employed. And while things aren't the best financially, I am thankful to have income, to be able to sharpen and develop my skills.
Despite a few rejections, and a failed appeal and a waitlist, and perhaps some dumb luck, I have been able to start my graduate program pursing my Masters in Clinical Psychology. Lots of reading and new information to intake but so excited to learn how to continue to better serve those in need.
After a whirlwind of seeming like everything was being lost, I have my own place again and a new vehicle to take my wherever my dreams, treatment, and life may lead.
So suffice it to say, all things considered. I'm alive and well. I know that I would not be here without not only the amazing care of the doctors and nurses I've worked with but the truly amazing community of friends, family, church members and even strangers who have continued to uplift me, encourage me and pray for me. Please know that my gratitude extends far beyond anything I could express with words.
I would also like to conclude this post by asking you all to keep in your thoughts the extended members in our respective communities. While my load may be lightened, for the time being, my heart is still heavy for those battling new cancers diagnosis, treatments, natural disasters and so much unrest in our nation and world. We as people are strongest in a community and I pray that the love I have felt, can be extended by myself and all of you, to those who so desperately needed.
As to all of you, may the best of your todays be the worst of your tomorrows. Continue to strive for greatness, in all that you do and always remember No One Fights ALONE