When the Traveling Gets Hard

By Mel Heller, MD


When the traveling gets hard for others. we try to express our sincerest support and concern as best we can. A number of our GISTmates are traveling in hard and painful places right now. I wish I had a better handle on their individual situations, and knew better what to say about fears that we may needs to prepare meeting much sooner things which we wish would come much later. The task sometimes, I feel, is a matter of somehow searching to find hope and faith in a place of dread and fear. In the face of our potential or pending jeopardies – given our variable and unpredictable sarcomatous risks – we need perspective instead of panic.

We try to offer each other help with our GIST treatment experiences. We come to care about each other more than we might have anticipated when we first log on to our List. When the traveling gets hard, and the weather seems especially dark and for some of us, we try to offer each others our best wishes, our prayers, and sometimes something that might be helpful from our own experience and perspective. I have tried, through the years, to find pieces of perspective that support me in times of concern, stress or discouragment. I don’t have it all, but as I say, pieces of perspective, thoughts or insights that make a kind of sense, and which comfort me when the traseling gets hard. Here are some thoughts for our GISTmates who are doing some hard traveling on the road we all share:

Our lives are short stories and variations, I think, on repetitive, tragi-comic themes in an eternally unscrolling loop – a Book of Life which is the most awesome mystery to which one might be exposed and privileged to ponder and contemplate – even in the full span of our brief lifetimes. And if an incomplete, but sentient, human glimpse of that exciting mystery isn’t worth the ticket, the full price of admission, and even the suffering, perhaps we are missing the basic point that we are all born naked, without a dime – and that every day we’ve known, and everything we ever experienced or got, including GIST, was pure profit in a free ride which brought our GIST cohort into full adulthood from some unknown point of oblivion in the endless protoplasmic chain of human destiny. Now, isn’t having been a part of that, for whatever time we might have, more exciting and mysterious than sad?

So, why cry instead of applaud, when it comes time for us to get up and leave, sensing somehow, if not exactly recognizing, that this may likely be where we came in, long after the show started – and only knowing sometimes what it seemed to be about, and finally knowing, when it came time to leave, that no matter how long we might otherwise have stayed in these parts, the mystery would remain and there would be no knowing.

Maybe I could, if it would help, add something to the effect that we adults who have have been so rudely informed that we are hanging in with GIST – and having thus been alerted and motivated to think about life’s meaning – have perhaps a better chance to seek and find our own directions to an inner road to peace, than those who, unlike us, received no prior notice to ponder whether the Unmarked Door, through which all must inevitably pass, is an Exit or an Entrance.

Would any of my thoughts possibly help the likes of those for whom we care deeply, but glimpse all too briefly in cyberspace? I really do not know? Or should we simply say, "I’m sorry" and let it go at that? There is, it seems to me, something more than feeling, and especially something more than than feeling sad and sorry. Yes, there is an abundance of that – but there is also knowing, knowing that we are together, and knowing that when the bell tolls for any of us, no matter how seemingly soft and distant or up close and loud it peels, that the bell tolls for all of us. Not sooner or later, but now and always for all of us.

Whether we really understand the meaning of that or not, I have learned in the long life that I have lived and loved, that we are all connected, and never alone.

Perhaps let us realize and celebrate our special togetherness when the traveling gets hard.

We are not alone.