It is a flaw of the human psyche that the thankfulness doesn't come every waking moment, as it should. But when it comes, it comes in waves. Sometimes it comes electronically.
Just the other day, it arrived in my e-mail inbox, where a Major League Baseball Players Association press release announced that the union's executive director, Michael Weiner, will receive the Voices Against Brain Cancer organization's 2012 Vision of Hope Award in the midst of his battle with a brain tumor.
Those words -- brain tumor -- still strike me in a weird way, once foreign and now all-too-familiar.
They found a tumor in my brother's brain just a little more than a year ago. Bill had experienced some headaches, and then one day he couldn't form his words. His fiancée took him to the emergency room. I was there when they came in with the results of the MRI, and it's a conversation I keep vivid in my memory as a reminder for how quickly the tides can turn.
Tumor. Brain surgery. Brain cancer. These were words and phrases that had never been in my family's vocabulary. They came with feelings and fears that had never been felt, they bred conversations that never otherwise would have taken place. But through it all, Bill, diagnosed at just 39, was unbelievably strong. He didn't seek sympathy or demonstrate even the slightest bit of bitterness. If anything, he showed concern more for what we were experiencing. That's just the kind of guy he is.
I'm thankful -- forever thankful and forever amazed -- to report that my brother is doing well. Very well, all things considered. The tumor was removed, the radiation and chemotherapy treatments were efficient, aggressive, effective. Fourteen months after his initial diagnosis, he is cancer-free.
There are residual effects from his procedure -- for him and, admittedly, a little for us -- and there will be knots in the stomach every couple months, when he goes in for another MRI. Once you're in the woods, you're never really out of them. But he is still afloat on the raging sea of life, and for that, my thankfulness -- for my brother's doctors, for the friends who supported him every step of the way, for those who have worked so hard to make the medical advances that saved him and for the God who I believe was watching over it all -- knows no bounds.
So when I hear about others dealing with this devastating condition -- the alarm of the unknown, the fear of our human frailty, it resonates more than it ever did before. And it's upsetting to know how many families this affects.
Look no further than our little baseball bubble. My brother was diagnosed with glioblastoma around the same time Jeanine Duncan, wife of Cardinals pitching coach Dave and mother of then-Indians outfielder Shelley and former Cardinals outfielder Chris, received the same diagnosis. In the time since, Chris has also received treatment for a brain tumor. Just imagine the emotions that have surged through the Duncan family in the last year and a half.
Weiner, the respected union chief, began treatment for a brain tumor in August. It was good to see him at the World Series, where baseball was probably a welcomed distraction, in light of recent events.
"You never know what fate has in store for you," Weiner said in that Voices Against Brain Cancer release.
Amen to that. And all we can reasonably hope is that our reactions to that fate inspire some greater good.
That, essentially, is the purpose of this pre-Thanksgiving piece. For my thankfulness extends to advocacy groups like Voices Against Brain Cancer that seek to raise awareness and support of brain cancer research -- a cause that is, unfortunately, underfunded. So if I can use this small platform to point even a few of you to their web site www.voicesagainstbraincancer.org, to sign up for their "Join the Voices! Run/Walk" on Sunday, Dec. 2, in Central Park, or to donate to Weiner's team, it's well worth it.
You learn a lot about love, faith, gravity and gratitude in situations like these. I know my family has so much to be thankful for, and my hope is that many more families will soon feel the same.