Video: Strength and Compassion in the Worst of Times by da-AL

In the worst situations, strength and compassion shine brightest. Terrible times strip away everything but what’s essential, leaving bare the best in us and those we encounter during our trials. 

The first time I learned the depth of this truth was when I co-produced a video for the Leukemia Society of America (nowadays Leukemia and Lymphoma Society). They’d hired my business partner, David Hunt (who has written for HBT here and here), and me (our non-profit company was called, Vista Educational Media) to encourage therapists, as well as people struggling with leukemia to get involved in the agency’s support groups. Executive Producer was Maureen Nunn. We videotaped at Wellness Community South Bay Cities, which is now Cancer Support Community Redondo Beach. The Los Angeles Times wrote of participant Roger Kahl’s valiant life here.

The way David and I worked was always to let subjects speak their truths, then we’d do our best to edit and narrate accurately. For each project, David and I would alternate who would be in charge and who would assist.

Thank goodness for this one David conducted the interviews, wrote, edited, and narrated. It took all I had not to sob while I stood to videotape behind the tripod. Reviewing it all these many years later, I still cry at the incredible bravery of the interviewees and David’s outstanding storytelling.

On David’s site, he details his experience with this project. Here’s his preliminary description for my site here…

“By the 1990s health educators understood that video-assisted storytelling was an effective way to engage patients and get them involved in their own health care. But many of the nation’s top health organizations, including the Leukemia Society, used actors as stand-ins for actual patients in their health education videos. In 1992 I was part of a documentary team that convinced the organization to trust people with leukemia to share their own stories.”

Learning from Cancer by da-AL

Photo of daisy wearing glassesPhoto: Gratisography.com Ryan McGuire.

Years before I was diagnosed with cancer, an agency that facilitated emotional support groups for people with cancer hired me to produce a video for them.

The morning my partner and I gathered our camera equipment, I braced myself for an emotionally trying day. Listening to the stories of those battling to live, I did my best not to cry as I stood behind the lens.

By the end of the videotaping session, I felt uplifted by their strength — and mystified! How could many of them speak of cancer as a blessing?

In 2007, I too was diagnosed with cancer. At first, I was angry, sad, frustrated, and terrorized. It took time for cancer to reveal its lessons to me.

Photo of a group of mallard ducks walking Photo: Gratisography.com Ryan McGuire.

Learning that happiness is worth fighting for has changed me profoundly. Early on, a sage cancer warrior recounted how a friend of hers dreaded when his cancer would kill him, yet he outlives many loved ones. The wise woman told me, “No one can predict how long they’ll live. We’re lucky for every day.”

Day and night, as I endured my illness being categorized, quantified, and treated, I obsessed over how I might have contracted it…how to get rid of it…how to never get it again…how it would hurt my loved ones…and on and on…

When I tried was hot yoga, the laser focus it demanded quieted my mind. The full length mirrors reflected how, if I dwell on what hurts and what I fear, then my yoga suffers. They showed me how, when I physically and mentally resonate words like ‘happy,’ ‘healthy,’ ‘joy,’ and ‘love,’ possibility becomes reachable.

Photo of bee at purple flowers Photo: Gratisography.com Ryan McGuire.

It’s a wonder that my worrying didn’t kill me. Often I wondered if someone as ordinary as me deserved to live. Eventually, I figured that I’ve got as much of a right to breath as do cockroaches and fleas. And that I’ve got something to say, which is how this blog started (as did the two novels I’m writing!)…

Life is always a gift, and that includes all of our experiences.

Has illness taught you any lessons?

Guest Blog Post: 18 Years of Blogging by Dan

How long have you been writing or reading blogs? I’ve read them for years and blogged myself about two and a half years.

Dan’s blogged for 18 years! Regardless of his ever self-effacing self-description that he should be better at it by now, I’m much impressed! In his words, here’s what he’s learned about blogging, including some of his art…

outline drawing of Dan's feet
EWB* (Experience With Blogging)

I blogged as a way to practice my writing hobby. Attraction of Viewers, Likes, and Comments would only add incentive for sorting out and organizing my thoughts. Wrong! My blog grew to an enormous size. I became insatiable, like a chef on a quest to include more ingredients in the pot. I tripped up on this “big feet” mentality.

Meanwhile, other matters became most pressing. I was a Caregiver. After things settled down, I reached good stopping points (CMfM – skeleton; ITN – structure) and buttoned up (put it in an archival mode) my blog after publishing 2057 posts. (It downloads too slowly, and casual users can’t reasonably peruse its content.)

If your goal is to attract spiders (advanced views to blog posts), here are two tips for increased “access to location”:
Improve the odds that an Internet Seeker with a focused search will find you [do this by adding General or Specific Category labels and Tags.] and
Improve your referrals [get out there and find compatible sites and link to each other].

Just remember this: It is easier to get excited by one well-directed “find” than to sustain the fickle interest levels of the entire internet!

Guest Blog Post: Ignorance by Chuy

Photo of Chuy dog

It took me a long time to learn this. Paz’ dog Chuy taught it to him…

Chow Dog Zen

Road to The Wonder Woods

Just because you 

Don’t Know

You are 

Beautiful,

Perfect,

And Precious to this

Great Cosmos

Doesn’t mean

It isn’t So.

  • Chuy

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Guest Blog Post: “Seaweeds of the Irish Coast,” in the exact words of GaiaInAction

Photo of Irish seaweeds by GaiaInAction

Love eating seaweed (aka sea veggies)? They’re delish and massively awesome for us. Leave it to former branch librarian GaiaInAction to capture their beauty…

agoyvaerts

Yesterday saw a whole bunch of us interested folks going to explore the arboretum at Ardnagashel in Glengarriff, West Cork, but apart from admiring the wonderful trees we also received lots of information on the seaweeds and lichens along this stretch of coast. Ardnagashel was established by the Hutchins family and it was as part of the Heritage Week of Ireland that these activities took place, in memory of Ellen Hutchins (1785-1815)who was a remarkable Irish Botanist. The talks on the lichens and seaweeds were given by Howard Fox, who is the State Botanist (National Botanic Gardens) and by Maria Cullen. This ‘life’ introduction to the seaweeds and the lichens of the coast of Bantry Bay was so very interesting. a true first introduction in this field for me. Later in the afternoon Madeline Hutchins (Ellen’s great great grand niece) took us through the forested area of this garden and…

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Let’s All Drop Labels by da-AL

Video Still from Drop Labels dot org websiteFirst impressions. It’s hard to restrain myself from making snap judgments about people when I first meet them.

Worse is when I settle for my shallow analysis and end up labeling folks.

We’re all complex, all of us alike yet different from each other, so I doubt anyone appreciates my boxing them into a label. Moreover, embracing knee-jerk categorizing limits me from enjoying all the marvelous aspects of the people I meet as well as learning the really good stuff from them.

Alas, training myself to stop being an automaton seems impossible.

Not so! There’s hope, thanks to this consciousness-raising site founded by a wise new friend. Drop Labels features videos of people discussing how being labeled has hurt them. The site goes above and beyond threadbare definitions of types of labels. For instance, this man has found that he hates being labeled as ‘the man with cancer’ …

Do you label? Have you been labeled?

Heroine: Jessi Zazu, 28, Singer/Guitarist of Those Darlins Wasn’t Scared of Death by da-AL

Jessi Zazu, Lead Singer/Guitarist of Those Darlins
Jessi Zazu, Lead Singer/Guitarist of Those Darlins
Offering hope ...
Offering hope …

Alt-country/garage Jessi Zazu of Those Darlins was only 28. Toward the end of her valiant fight against cervical cancer, she made this video, which includes links to her artwork …

Besides her heartfelt music, she leaves behind a legacy. Despite her overwhelming medical bills, she set up the “Ain’t Afraid Scholarship” at the Southern Girls Rock and Roll Camp. In addition, she contributed art for a Radiation Oncology suite.

Jessi’s art site.

More about Jessi Zazu.