Thursday, August 2, 2012

"Things They Carried"

You'll have to excuse me.  I'm having a technological moment.  Moments, more accurately.

New laptop in place. Yes, two keyboards.  Don't ask.
Since returning home last Friday evening after more than a month on the road I've truly been challenged: my laptop wheezed its last while I was gone. You know the spear that pierces your heart when you realize that what separates you from all your files is six pounds of hard, molded steel and huge swipes of your credit card. A happy camper I wasn't.  I was literally standing on the power button as if fierce thoughts might spark ignition.

And isn't it funny (yes, just friggin' hilarious, thank you very much) how things happen in tandem? My laptop blew. So did my electric truthbrush. For real. Then today? The digital scale. Voila! My belief that all things work for the greater good was restored.

Under normal circumstances I wouldn't have mentioned the scale but last week I was at Project Lead, a program of the National Breast Cancer Coalition,  six days of intensive, hands-on study of the science of breast cancer,  epidemiology and public policy. We listened to phenomenal, challenging lectures, snacked on fresh fruit, went to the next lecture, grabbed a cookie, broke into awesome study groups, nibbled on chocolate. Then we went to lunch before the next lecture started. You get the picture.  It was the best of college on steroids. So outrageously good. Before Project Lead, I traveled with Livestrong to lobby with OVAC - One Voice Against Cancer -  and at the end of June I was the social media "voice" for a five-day conference in Houston on health disparities - HealthEquity12 -  in cancer and other chronic diseases.  I was there when the Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act was announced.

This brings me back to where I started. Even though I've been away, and traveled great physical and mental distances during the past month, the essentials are still the same. I think of all of you daily.  I always carry my IPAD now, which contains a photo stream of shots compiled for a talk I gave on cancer survivorship. Within that stream are photos of Betsy, and Rachel, and Susan - beloved women who died this past year. Even if it's a quirk, or an illusion, simply having those photos 'on tap' mean the world to me.  I can still see their digital imprint even though I will not see them again.

The writer John Cheever, that sublime polisher of the short story, once said after he lost some manuscripts that he just sat down and started another one. That is art. And perspective. Wisdom. My world certainly won't collapse if my Microsoft Outlook files can not be retrieved.  I can re-gather that information. But my world would not have been the same if I hadn't known Rachel, and Betsy, or followed Susan through her treatment for inflammatory breast cancer. My world would not be as meaningful had I not taken up this cause I'm immsered in now. This is what what I'll be doing for the rest of my life. Because I carry them with me.  And always will.

* * *

The Things They Carried is a brilliant short story and collection by the writer Tim O'Brien about a platoon of soliders in Viet Nam.  I originally read it in Esquire, then in a collection edited by Ann Beattie (The Best American Short Stories, 1987).  I remembered this powerful story today and this coming Monday, August 6, we'll use the theme of "things we carry" in our weekly #BCSM discussion on Twitter. 


katie ford hall said...

XOXO Jody.

Jody said...


Debbie said...

Awesomesauce is what you are. Thanks for posting and for being you.
Love, me

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post, Jody. And I especially love that the "things you carry" are not really things at all, but loving memories.

Jan said...

I agree with the comments of the others. Well said. Just because technology fails doesn't mean we can't carry on. And you do! xx

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Jody said...

Thank you all:)

Jan, I especially like your thought:just because technology fails doesn't mean we can't carry on! We do and we must.

Tonight on #BCSM and "things they carried" will include both the physical, spiritual and emotional 'things' we carried with us during treatment. This can include things that were positive as well as those things that were burdens.


Nancy's Point said...

This post reminds me just how much I've come to depend on technology devices too. But as Jan said, no matter what happens, we get to carry the loving memories with us. All those treasures of the heart last forever.

Nice post. Hope you get to hang out at home for a spell.

Beth L. Gainer said...

Great posting about a terrific book. I've read it and taught it, and the more I read The Things They Carried, the more I'm convinced that breast cancer is like a war. I related so well -- too well -- with the soldiers.

I missed the chat, but I know it was a great one because they are all great.

Unknown said...

Every person has cancer cells in the body. These cancer cells do not show up in the standard tests until they have multiplied to a few billion. When doctors tell cancer patients that there are no more cancer cells in their bodies after treatment, it just means the tests are unable to detect the cancer cells because they have not reached the detectable size.
lets put this on our minds and live a healthy lifestyle, a friendly reminder from alternative treatments for cancer,

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Unknown said...

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Emily (

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