Thanks to Randy…

So, I have a confession to make: I’m a liar.  In my last blog post, I said I would not watch the Barbara Walters interview of Patrick Swayze and, well, I did.  Initial impressions:

  • Patrick looks pretty bad; more gaunt than I remember him.
  • Barbara Walters asked some pretty stupid questions (e.g., “Do you think your smoking caused your cancer?”; “Do you have any idea how long you have to live, Patrick?”; to his wife, “Have you considered what life will be like without Patrick?”).  Despite being a contributing risk factor, there’s no way to tell what caused his pancreas cancer.  As he said, his smoking probably played a part, but that’s just an inane question; however, it was not nearly as bad as asking Patrick how long he has to live or whether his wife has thought about life without him.  Oy!
  • Barbara’s questions were trite and basic.  This was the first Barbara Walters interview I went out of my way to watch.  Her reputation (I thought) is that of someone who is a good interviewer.  I thought her interview of Swayze was lazy and superficial.
  • It *IS* impressive that he was able to work 12 hour days shooting his new series.  I know that when I was having my 5FU chemo (and even now with the GemZar), the medicine really knocks me out.  I sometimes have trouble making it through an 8 hour day in front of the computer, so it’s pretty impressive what Patrick was able to accomplish.
  • Patrick must read my blog, because many of the things he said are things that I have written here (e.g., “Either get started living or get started dying”; you need to take it one day at a time and do your best to live life to the fullist).  In short, Patrick really didn’t say anything I haven’t either said or written in this blog (well, that’s not entirely true — I do NOT talk to ghosts or angels).
  • Patrick Swayze is no Randy Pausch (more on this in a minute).
  • I remain convinced (and saddened) that Patrick is allowing himself to be exploited as a means to increase viewership of his new series.  Yes the interview superficially covered topics other than his series, but a large portion was spent talking about his work on the series.  Now, I don’t begrudge him for doing so (the more people who watch his show, the more likely there will be a 2nd season — with or without Patrick), but it’s hard to take him too terribly seriously about his desire to raise awareness about pancreas cancer when he allows himself to be so exploited.  By the way, further evidence of his willingness to exploit his cancer: I heard a commercial indicating that Patrick was going to be on Larry King Live “Next Tuesday: Larry King talks to Patrick Swayze about his cancer”

Someone asked me, in response to my blogged intention of not watching the interview, what the difference was between watching Patrick’s interview and watching the Randy Pausch’s “Last Lecture.”  As I had expected, the interview was all about Patrick and his situation; what he is doing to live his life.  The Last Lecture was about doing what you can to inspire people through your actions.  In fact, if it weren’t for the powerful messages that Randy espoused, I think we would not even know that Patrick had pancreas cancer; perhaps we would know he had cancer, but we wouldn’t be terribly interested in the type.

How many people actually knew that Luciano Pavorotti died of pancreas cancer in 2007 (doesn’t count if you read in my blog)?  Did the mainstream media give much play to Steve Jobs being diagnosed with pancreas cancer in 2004?  The answer to both, I think, is ‘No.’  Randy’s lecture, however, was so powerful that it not only inspired people to try and help others, but it moved them to share the story with others; eventually, the video of the lecture went “viral” on the internet and Randy Pausch became a household name and people became aware of how deadly pancreas cancer is.  It was only then that the society as a whole began to hear about this person and that person being diagnosed with pancreas cancer.

I admire Randy Pausch because of his desire to impart his knowledge / passion to his students and colleagues.  When he was diagnosed with pancreas cancer, Randy went out of his way to see what he could do to make a difference; he became an advocate.  In his blog, Randy said:

Jai & I have been trying to see how we can use my D-list celebrity … for good. I’m working with both the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) and the Lustgarten Foundation, doing things like videotaping public service announcements and meeting with lawmakers up in Washington, DC. One reason pancreatic cancer is such an “orphan” disease is that we don’t have many long-term survivors to lead marches on Washington. So I’m trying to sort of become the “Michael J. Fox of pancreatic cancer.”

While I would, for very selfish reasons, prefer that Patrick and Steve Jobs did more to be advocates for pancreas cancer — to raise awareness so that more funding would be funneled to pancreas cancer research.  I certainly wish I had the ability to take up Randy’s fallen mantle.  Having said that, I do not think badly of Patrick and Steve for NOT being advocates.  That is their choice and I respect it.

I should say that, in writing this, I just read on a couple of sources, that Patrick has been hospitalized with pneumonia — not uncommon when chemotherapy compromises one’s immune system.  Whether I agree or disagree with how he uses his celebrity, I hope that he is able to recover from the pneumonia — I wish for him to have as much time with his wife and friends as possible.

I remain grateful that, in response to people asking me how I’m doing (today), I can honestly say that I am doing well.  Every two weeks I have chemo and feel crappy for a couple of days, and I’m still fighting the vestiges of a cold, but otherwise, I remain seemingly as healthy as I was before being diagnosed (okay, not entirely — I still have to take my pancreatic enzymes to help digest my food).  I am back to a generally normal (busy) schedule: tonight (Friday), I was at the karate school, helping to teach.  Tomorrow I am driving to TN to go caving with a group of boy scouts.  Sunday, after getting back home, I have a cub scout leader meeting and then teach OWL at church.  Other than that, I have plenty of free time.

So for the time being, don’t worry about me.  I’m doing well, but I continue to appreciate everyone’s support, love, and friendship.

Merle