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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

In Other Words: The Secret to Life is to Just Keep Moving

My friend, Ivy, and I at a chemo session.

There's always some anxiety about the future. That’s pretty normal. We plan but events may not turn out like we planned. Robert Burns wrote in “To a Mouse” that “the best laid schemes of mice and men, gang aft a-gley.” He meant that no matter how well we plan, something may go awry. It’s Murphy’s Law. But sometimes it doesn’t happen. And then sometimes it does. And that is the source of anxiety.  

Our fear of the future is the fear of the unknown. It’s understandable. But as we step into the future we constantly adjust and even embrace those changes. Think about the anxiety you experienced with graduation, entering college or the military, a new job, births, deaths. We move forward because moving backwards is counterproductive. There is a comfort in knowing the future but we also understand that there can be some “happy accidents” along the way. And those are magical moments.

I got into a conversation with a guy I regularly see at the gym. Turns out he is a nurse and had spine surgery and exercises so he wouldn’t “rust.” And I have cancer. You never would know to see us - two relatively fit looking people chatting. As our conversation unfolded he said, “You know, you just got to keep movin’.” And he’s right.

Just keep moving.

You may know Whitney Sutkamp. Her first cancer appeared in her ear when she was four years old. As a result of that she has very little hearing in that ear. She is now 29. She lost her hair a couple of times but she rocked the bald look. She embraced those changes and made it a part of her. It is part of her but it hasn’t defined her.

But the cancer has returned. Her last scan indicated a spot in her lung. The question is how to address the tumor - chemo, surgery, or something else. Her future is unknown but she has learned something about herself.  “I could get through stuff,” she told me over coffee one morning. That’s a powerful lesson. She feels more empowered and confident as a result. And she learned that because she just kept moving.

A neighbor, an active young mother, was diagnosed with an unusual form of leukemia. She is suffering from a mix of chemo and radiation. It’s a brutal treatment and I admire her greatly. She takes a beating but she keeps moving even when she feels like giving up.

A former student is undergoing a radiation therapy to fight her brain tumors.  She has a full skull mask that is then snapped into place while radiation is targeted at her brain. As horrible as it is, she mocks the disease. She will not be stopped. She keeps moving.

All are examples of grace and power and determination.  And there are similar stories on just about every street in town.

The problem with cancer is that the future is in flux. How do we survive, get along, move forward? Well, by simply moving. Just keep moving. Two attempts to cure this lymphoma have failed and that is disappointing as well as you can imagine. But we keep moving. Even through the bad days. Especially through the bad days.

Since I am ineligible for a stem cell transplant, I begin CAR-T treatment this week. It’s a new immunotherapy where a patient’s t-cells are genetically modified, then reintroduced to destroy the cancer cells. It’s new and there is always the potential for problems but there is great promise for remission. I understand the risks and I accept them. But we are moving forward. I refuse to allow this cancer to hold me down or back.

None of us will be who we were but with some luck, good science, and engineering, and your support we will be able to keep on moving and maybe become “new and improved.” Or as Whitney told me what she learned, “Take it day by day. It sounds so cliche. You can only plan for so much….It’s going to be okay. I believe there’s something good here.” So we just keep moving.


  1. Well, you nailed it again. Keep moving. Focus on what's in front, not behind you. The past has molded us thus far, but we apparently have more roads to conquer. I believe in you. I believe in Faith and Hope. I just plain Believe.

  2. Chuck: You keep moving – and we all keep rooting for you!

  3. Chuck: You keep moving – and we all keep rooting for you!

  4. Well said Chuck! We are defined by what we do in life. Sometimes those things are commercial. A job at P&G or sweeping floors to get a foot in the door, but it's the silent things that we struggle to overcome that really make us who we ultimately become.

  5. Thank you for this! I have stage 2 cervical cancer that has spread to my lymph nodes and am on #2 of a heavy chemo regimen. But I work when I'm able, participate in activities as much as I can, and on my very worst days I still try to walk up my street. Cancer doesnt define me. It's hard and not for whims. I hate losing my hair but I am strong and capable still. So I do what I can to keep on moving. Or I as I always say (pardon the language but it fits) #fuckcancer