I recently spoke at a benefit concert for Kelly Wade–the world’s most talented acupuncturist. She’s having to take a break from her practice to duke it out with cancer.
Kelly is a doer. She has no patience for wallowing in self-pity. She is beyond annoyed that, as a society, we allow news of cancer to reduce us to living in fear.
If you live in fear, you can’t live life to its fullest. Kelly would very much like us all to knock off this living in fear business.
After we were all treated to a Brahms violin concerto by six incredible musicians from the Seattle Symphony, I gave the following remarks. I’m sharing them here in the hopes that you will join the Global Campaign to Bring It On.
Thank you for that amazing gift of music. I played oboe from Grade 5 to Grade 12. I was okay, at best. Whenever I hear gifted musicians play such beautiful music, I am reminded of how mediocre I truly was. Thanks to each and every one of you for sharing your talent with us this evening.
I am Erica Mills, a former entirely mediocre oboe player and a current patient of Kelly’s. Kelly asked me to give a few remarks on her behalf to tie a bow on this incredible evening.
Kelly is like Bruce Lee–small in stature and big on power. She is a force to be reckoned with. Larger than life. So when she asked me to say a few words, I was humbled…and a little stumped in terms of what to say. It’s a tall order to channel your inner Kelly!
But then I realized that this was an opportunity to put into action an idea I’ve had for about twelve years.
Twelve years ago, my mum was diagnosed with Grade 4 follicular non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In non-medical terms, that’s “a bad blood cancer.”
My dad and I went to all of her chemo treatments with her. My job was to get trashy magazines. My dad’s was to get the lattes.
So we were sitting there reading about whether Brad and Jenn were going to split up (say it ain’t so!) and what Brittany Spears was wearing when my mum, out of the blue, looks up and says:
“You realize this isn’t my time, right?”
Me (with furrowed brow and a look of where is this going?) “Yep, pretty clear on that.”
Mum: “Among other reasons, it’s not my time because I don’t have any grandkids and I have every intention of having some.”
Me: Uh, okay.
Although married at the time, my husband and I weren’t quite ready for kids. So I started looking at other ways to focus my cancer-fighting energies and I decided it’d be a really good idea to launch a global campaign to Kick Cancer’s Ass. I was fairly serious about this. I really thought that was a great idea. Turns out, the idea didn’t take off in the way I’d thought it might and so it went into remission, as it were.
When I was thinking about what to say this evening, I thought, “Heck ya! It’s time to really launch this sucker!” I was psyched. The global scale was right for someone as awesome as Kelly. (Although galactic might be a little more on par with Kelly’s true influence and impact, but we’ll settle for global. Feels more actionable if we don’t include other planets at this point.)
Then I realized if we focused the campaign solely on cancer, we were missing the point. The point of beating cancer is to live life to its fullest, not just to kick its ass.
I also remembered the second law of thermodynamics.
I was first introduced to this law by my dad who, at the time, was a professor of thermodynamics. I was about 4 and was learning how to swing. My older sister was next to me going up, up, up. Meanwhile, I was going nowhere.
Seeing my frustration, my dad came over and said, “There is no free lunch, honey. Pump harder.”
At the time, I had no idea what he was talking about. Mainly I wondered if this meant we were going to get a second lunch that day.
As I grew up, my dad would say this to me periodically, “There is no free lunch”. What I didn’t realize until I was older was that he was paraphrasing the second law of thermodynamics: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
As individuals and as a society, we apply this law to cancer in the following way:
Action: “I have cancer.”
Reaction: “That’s so sad.”
The depth of our sadness a mirror to the gravity of the cancer.
The flaw in our collective application of the second law of thermodynamics to cancer is that we have allowed ourselves to believe the full reaction stops with sadness or fear. It’s not that we won’t feel sad when we hear bad news about ourselves or others. But we can let that be a momentary reaction en route to the full reaction which is living life to its fullest.
Action: “I have cancer.”
Reaction: “Bring it on!”
Let me pause and say, I’m not advocating for all of us to actually say this when someone tells us they have cancer. That’d be weird and probably wouldn’t go over very well.
What I am advocating for is for all of us to fundamentally shift how we react to cancer and to any other piece of really bad, gnarly, yucky news. We have the choice to say: “Bring it on!”
And by ‘it’, I don’t mean cancer. I mean bring on living life to its fullest. Every day. In every way possible.
So, here, tonight, right now, I’d like to launch the Global Campaign to Bring It On!
Bring it on. Whatever ‘it’ looks like for you.
Unbeknownst to them, the Wade Family is the campaign’s first poster family. (For anyone who knows them, this is ironic, given how private they are, but they haven’t left yet so we’re going with it!)
Once Kelly is done kicking cancer’s ass, she and Bob can decide who the next poster family or person should be. But, for now, in this initial stage of the Global Campaign to Bring It On, our job is to support them in any way we can.
There are many unknowns in Kelly’s battle with cancer, but we do know a few things.
One, they will need food. Lots of it and hopefully really, really tasty.
Two, getting the amazing Wade kids to all their activities is no small undertaking. Some help getting them to and from so they can unleash their awesomeness will be a big help.
Third, we know that cancer isn’t cheap. Since Kelly and Bob are going into somewhat uncharted territory with her treatment, it’s unclear how much all this cancer fighting will cost. But it’s a safe bet that it’ll probably be expensive.
Two of Kelly’s friends, Alys and Karin, are responsible for organizing tonight’s event. They have also set up a way for us to make a donation. To the extent you are able to contribute, we invite you to do so. (Details will be emailed in a few days, so watch for those.)
Some of you might be wondering what happened with my mum and her bout with cancer. I talked to her earlier today. She is busy preparing for Thanksgiving, which she will spend with her four grandkids.
My mum is a statistical anomaly She shouldn’t be here. But she is. Because, since she’d lived with my dad for so many years, she knew that the appropriate application of the second law of thermodynamics was–Bring It On! And that’s exactly what she did. She brought it on and kicked cancer’s ass. Kelly’s going to do the same.
We all know that cancer is a powerful force. There’s no getting around it. But we know a force that is far more powerful than cancer. A force that no evil, no matter how big, can contend with. That force is humanity. As individuals, as a community and as a society, we have the opportunity to unleash the full force and goodness of humanity and channel it toward the Kelly and the whole Wade family.
Would you all please stand up and put both your hands in the air? Now make a fist. As you make a fist, I want you to visualize the enemy: cancer, living in fear, not living life to the fullest. (I personally visualize the enemy as a mashup of Donald Trump and Dr. Evil, but that’s just me.) Now open your fists and release. Release all the anger you have. The anger about cancer rudely attacking Kelly’s appendix. Release it. Because anger isn’t going to get us anywhere. Anger keeps us living in fear. If we’re going to take this campaign global, we can’t be living in fear. We’ve got to bring it on!
Now that we’ve released all that yucky fear, let’s close things out right. On the count of three, let’s say together–so loud we rattle the windows:
KELLY, WE LOVE YOU! BRING IT ON!
Thank you for being here tonight. Thank you for supporting Kelly and the Wade family. And thank you for being part of the Global Campaign to Bring It On.