Yesterday, Books for Breasts passed the $1000 mark on funds collected, and I still have about 20 books left to give away!
Back in 2004, the Mountain Goats put out an album titled We Shall All be Healed. I suspect they borrowed the phrase from the prayer, "Heal us, Lord, and we shall be healed." I first listened to the album in Laura's bedroom. She was on chemo at the time, and was spending much of the day in bed. The album is mostly about the self-destructive behavior of drug addicts, but there are some lines within it that filled me with neo-religious visions. In one of the songs, John Darnielle sings, "I dreamt of a factory, where they manufactured what I needed, using shiny new machines." He's talking, in the context of the song, about methamphetamines, but I would find myself dreaming of men and women in white lab coats, toiling over test tubes and microscopes, typing data in to computer terminals. These were the invisible soldiers in the war on cancer, and it filled me with the hope that any day I would pick up a newspaper and find that there had been some breakthrough, and Laura's cancer could be healed. I knew of people who'd lived with cancer for ten years and more. If Laura could hold out ten years, I was certain she would beat the disease.
She didn't, alas, make it ten years. And, if she had, I no longer believe the cure is going to be found tomorrow, or the next day. The last five years of research have yeilded important discoveries, the chief and most important of which is that we still have much more to learn.
But, when America was discovered by Europeans, it took them a while to figure out what they'd found. They set up colonies before they really even understood the shape and scope of the continents they'd encountered. I feel like we are in a similar stage in the understanding of cancer: We are still making maps of its boundaries. We are still sending surveyors into its interiors. We do not yet know all there is to know, but we are daily pushing the frontier ahead of us. And, just as we continued to improve the technology to map America--today, I have the ability to look down on the roof of my house from space!--we are only going to increase our understanding of cancer. Even discovering our ignorance, learning, for example, that a drug wipes out cancer in rats but does nothing for people, is progress. As we seek to understand what doesn't work, we gain insights into what will work.
So, on this warm June Sunday morning, I'll give a little prayer of gratitude to those unknown explorers in their lab coats who are seeking a new, cancer-free world. And, I extend a great big, heart-in-my-throat thank you to everyone who's donated this past week. You've done a good thing. You've put your money where your heart is.
The day is coming. We shall all be healed.