Tuesday, December 09, 2008

December 9, 2008 - David Bailey: Survivorship Guide

I’ve written before (see September 14th) about David M. Bailey, singer-songwriter and brain-cancer survivor. I happen to be on his e-mail list, and have been dismayed to learn in recent weeks that his cancer is back and he’s already had to have surgery. After that, he was all ready to have a second operation to install a port in his skull, through which advanced treatments could be directly delivered, but that’s been delayed, for now. The docs are trying to figure out whether a relapsed patient like him can qualify to get this particular treatment (evidently it’s only been approved for those who haven’t had any treatment previously).

In an earlier e-mail (November 29th), he reflects on the stages of adjustment he went through, after learning of his relapse:

“1 - I did the ‘it’s not fair!’ thing but that got old really fast and ended quickly. Of course it’s not fair. It’s also not fair that I already survived over 12 years when so many others have not. And so on.

2 - I did the ‘I can’t do this again!’ thing but that mindset also had to end with a resolute conclusion that it's not a matter of can or can’t. And way before you can even begin to think about mind over matter, you first have to tackle spirit over mind.

3 - When this first happened in 1996 I was unprepared for the multiple levels of healing needed or the bucket of new tools needed for the new journey. This time I’m a wee bit wiser – and for sure, with that wisdom comes some anticipatory dread but also, eventually, slowly, so very slowly, tiny glimmers of hope make their way through the dark. So many of you have been those glimmers to me, reminding me often in my own words things I know are true but still need to rediscover in a new way.

4 - Part of my dismay has been a humbling sense of awareness that so many have found a measure of hope in my last dozen years that to some degree I’d become a symbol of what is possible – a humbling role, but also a sometimes heavy mantle. Well, here’s the scoop. To myself, my family, friends, and fans I make this pledge: I will do as I have passionately pleaded with you to do in thousands of performances:

• I will not ask ‘Why me?’ I will only ask ‘What now?’
• I will practice loving the time. All the time.
• I will insist that the message of hope still never grows old.
• I will endeavor to share that hope, even when I don’t feel it.
• I will remain aware that there are always others walking a harder road than I.
• I will cling to the simple truth that ‘Life Goes On.’
• I will whisper with conviction the angels’ call to ‘Do Not Be Afraid’
• With the love you have already so freely shared, I will know that I am not alone.
• I will keep on walking as long as I am able and God willing, should the sun come up I will shout hallelujah for one. more. day.

Then make coffee.

I don’t know what is waiting but I’m on my way to meeting it.”

I quoted this rather extensive excerpt from David’s e-mail because, to me, he’s a wonderful guide for those of us who are at earlier stages of the survivorship journey. None of us are going to walk exactly the same road, of course, when it comes to remissions, relapses and treatments. But, if we can approach bad news with even a portion of the strength, humility and honesty that David has, we’ll be well on our way to triumphantly dealing with this thing.

One of the things David’s been doing, as he lies there in the hospital, has been to write poetry. I expect that, as a songwriter, it’s something he does all the time. But, this poetry is different. It’s not so polished as the song lyrics on his albums. It’s still kind of a rough draft – doggerel, almost. But, it’s gritty and it’s real. Maybe some songs still in the gestation process?

Here’s an excerpt from an e-mail he sent around on December 6th:

“As the dust has settled, three pillars do remain
Each one stands tall and true and each one has a name
The first one and clearly the biggest of the three:
The pillar of love will never ever fail me
The second one, more slender, but still at least as strong
The pillar of hope lets me sing another song
The third one, the pillar of faith completes the set
They’re ready for the roof; but I am not quite yet
See, I knew something was missing; it just took a little time
To make my head and heart finally get in line
It’s coming back and I can feel it like wind beneath my wings
It’s a simple thing called gratitude and it changes everything
Grateful for my family, grateful for my friends
Grateful to our God for a world that has no end
Grateful to my church and for a thousand meals
Grateful for all the cards – with or without the Starbucks seal :-)
But now it gets much harder, now the rubber meets the road
Can I still be grateful when my soul wants to explode?
Every single second? Maybe not, but I will try
If nothing else, it might make a few folks wonder why
Grateful for the needles, the nurses and the drugs
Grateful for the bruises and the stitches and the hugs
Grateful for the doctors, the interns and the staff
Grateful for the unexpected things that make me laugh
It takes a little practice, but deep down it feels good
Gratitude lets you win more than you thought you could
Pour it deep in your foundation
Make it part of who you are
Then watch the world change like the healing of a scar.”

Grace and peace, David. You’re a guide for all of us.


Mikha'el said...

Thanks for sharing the wonderful words written by David Bailey. On a day when it is tough to get going, reading such a note perks the energy to keep traveling the road.

Ronni Gordon said...


Thank you for the beautiful post and the song.

I woke up this morning dealing with the low counts that I wrote about yesterday, and it was a welcome reminder about where to place my energy. I smiled at the part where he said "now go make the coffee," because that's just what I did.

Stushie said...

I just heard about David Bailey for the first time today. Thanks for sharing the video, Carl. God bless.