When he was very young, my brother Danny loved to watch the cartoon Underdog. Like many boys with a hero, Danny would tie a hand towel around his neck and initiate his hero transformation by shouting, “Ungerdog.” Although we have sometimes had more sibling strife than fellowship, he is still my Ungerdog. He will fly in from Texas this week to once again drive me to chemo and radiation. That is a good brother, don’t you think?
He has to live in Texas while his wife Lisa stays here in Chicago because that’s where his job has taken him and this is no time to try to sell their home in the Chicago area. This is hard on both of them, but they do what they have to in this tough economy. Once they are able to make their move, we will miss them mightily. He will have to be in Texas for the upcoming holiday. It will not be the same without his good humor. I feel bad that I am going to take him from his wife for the day. I’m sure there are many things on his wife Lisa’s “Honey Do” list, but she has also been very supportive during these trying days in my life.
She sends me silly emails and very kind and concerned ones. She has called to see how I am doing. She has checked in on Mom when Mom’s gout was acting up. She told me to take selenium before I started chemo and radiation to save my hair. I still have my hair in week four of treatment.
My sister Kathy is saying a Novena and a rosary every day for me. She has powerful mojo. I think the Lord listens to her because she listens to Him. All I know for sure is that there have been days in these past couple of weeks when Kathy, her husband Jeff, their daughters Lisa and Maureen, and even their grandchildren Ryan and Rachel were all praying for me. I managed to get through some trying times due to God’s kindness. I know Kathy got me that help. She is a channel for kindness and grace. She is also the captain of my campaign to have the law school recognize the inequity done when it terminated my teaching in October.
My niece, Maureen and her fiance Justin drove out from Maryland to take me to chemo and radiation. Maureen sends me emails regularly.
My cousins have been sending me wonderful emails and have called me. Susie, with whom I share some kind of psychic connection, calls regularly and listens to every detail of my experience. My cousins Michael, Alice, Pam, and Pam’s daughter Courtney have lent their support. My aunt and her friend Bernie pray for me all of the time. My Aunt Arlene, who is engaged in a multi-year battle of her own against cancer that has recurred, has taken time to write to me to encourage me to keep my spirits up even as she prepares for more courses of chemo.
I have had some inspiring help from friends. Barb has been my chief source of emotional support through some dark days starting with my first day in the hospital. She plans to take me to my last chemo session next week. When I call her and I am anxious or afraid, she keeps me cool. Dominique took me to chemo last week. She has offered me the various types of alternative, complementary care that I am not getting at the hospital at which I am treated. Roberta sends me the craziest cards to keep me positive. She calls regularly to chat. Mary has been amazing. She paid for a housekeeper to keep my place clean. She gets on the Internet to find me new approaches to some of the taxing side-effects of my treatment. We talk about every other day about how it is going. She may be far away, but she is only a call away when I need her. I get peppy messages from Sue and Cindy and Kim and Cody. Michael has ideas for my future. He’s certain it will be bright. Paul has plans to visit some time this year to see how I’m doing. Jessica has lent her support to my dispute with the law school.
My friend Paul has a wonderful mom. Gladys recently sent me a card in which she said that she was praying for me but also for my mom. Gladys thinks it must be very hard for a mother to watch a child experience cancer. I think Gladys is right. Gladys also called to check on me while she was out of town. Who does that? A special person.
I have former students who have taken up my issues with the law school and university. Karen, Matt, Ayesha, Nathaliya, Kim (and Kim’s mom and several of her friends), Alexia, Geeta, Jesse, Joy, and Millie are just a few of the students who have supported me during these difficult times.
Some very nice supervisors have continued to support my decision to go on teaching at Roosevelt and DePaul’s paralegal programs. I am very grateful for their confidence in me.
My current students have been very supportive, too. Last Thursday several students stayed after class to ask how I was doing. One of them said that it was a good thing I wanted to go on teaching because the class would not have wanted to miss having me teach them. On Saturday students asked if there was anything they could do to help. Imagine that–as if they don’t already have full plates with work, school, and family obligations. Several of the students from my online class have learned of my condition and have sent me very kind notes of encouragement. My Tuesday class asks me how I am doing and has thanked me for coming back after my surgery. On my first day back at school one of my students walked me out to my car at nine in the evening. I was feeling very good, but she wanted to be sure I was okay to drive back to the city so late. Many of the students who were in my fall law school class got together to send me a card even after they were assigned to other classes and might have felt that I let them down.
These excellent people are the reason I teach. They are bright, hard-working, and kind. I hope they know that I wish them the best and have done my best to help them achieve it.
My path has so far been trying, but I am confident that in another two weeks I will begin to heal.
When that happens I will still be a changed person. My experiences have humbled me. I have faced fears I never before contemplated. I have taken on challenges I never expected to face in this life. I have asked for help to overcome obstacles and have been blessed by others’ generosity. I have surrendered my suffering to God and known His grace. I have waited for hours and hours for medical care I cannot afford and have witnessed the dignity and courage of people from many different walks of life who have never known a time in their lives when it was any different. I have shared my path with many people who were strangers to me, people whose life challenges I cannot fully appreciate, and have observed their dignity and experienced their kindness. I am not going to suggest that having cancer will turn out to be one of the best things to happen to me in my life, but there is no question, even now when the days are grim and my health falters, but that I will be a better person because of my experiences. I only hope that I can pay forward the many kindnesses done for me by so many.
I am reminded that my brother’s childhood hero was Ungerdog–mild mannered, generous, kind to his fellow man. These are qualities I hope will survive the crucible in which I now live. That is a worthy result for so many people’s assistance.