The really big post (part 2)

spiderMy day started, once again, with a spider, but this time it was an Orb Weaver suspended between my Ford Escape Hybrid and the ceanothus adjacent to the driveway. Linda gently detached his web from the car door, and Orb Weaver scampered into the foliage.

Linda and I were headed out together, for our second walk in two days – a rarity for us these days. Linda’s rapid recovery from tendon surgery has her walking 3 and 4 miles in the morning, outside the reach of my much slower recovery.

Walking is good thinking time, as I stump left, walk right on the appointed round. We have been thinking about Richard Dawkins’ latest, and his exegesis on why cancer is not weeded out by natural selection (also very nicely elucidated a couple rears ago by American writer Carl Zimmer). As I wobbled around Stanford’s picturesque campus, I rewrote the 2nd half of the Big Post, deciding, for better or worse, to write from a more personal perspective. Dawkins reports from Chopper Science, hovering high above: Gulker reports from the ground, at the gritty intersection of Genome and The Individual.

So, I have glioma, perfectly legal under the laws of evolution, and also, quite evidently, under God, as well. Glioma is a malignant, cancerous tumor of the brain that affects perhaps 4 in 100,000 people, most of whom (like Senator Kennedy) are in their 70s (I’m 58). Glioma can be relatively benign if it grows slowly and lies in a region of the brain apart from critical cognitive or motor areas. My tumor is all-but-the-fastest growing variety, and it sits smack on the motor strip – a peanut-sized region in my right parietal lobe – that controls every voluntary and semi-autonomous muscle on my left side.

No, I didn’t catch many breaks (2 of the 4 kinds of glioma are benign), but again, it could be worse. My friend (and former rector) Mike Spillane died 7 months after his diagnosis of stage 4 glioma (glioblastoma multiformae). A woman with glioma in Santa Monica who contacted me through a friend woke up one morning unable to write. A following morning she was unable to read. So, it could be worse.

That I have cancer, its type and position are effectively random: they just fell where they fell, in this uncaring universe. One response is to mope, and spouse and I have each done plenty enough of that, each in our own way (truth be known, ’tis Linda who possesses the stiffer upper lip). I’ve alluded to the endless friction that hemiparesis confers. As spouse aptly notes, it’s “a bitch.”

But past is past, and today, we both did something that we can do – try to shape our future. So we visited the hallowed grounds where once we jogged (for 17 blessed years), trusty herd-dog Cassie at our side for much of that time. We went to a spot where we watched many sunrises, and often kissed. In our respective minds’ eyes, we saw the winter mist that oft hung in the hollow of the dry bed of Lagunita. Linda cried. I hung my head. We both bid adieu to that treasured life past. Life goes on…


About Chris Gulker

Chris Gulker, a self-described Infuential Blogger, lived in Menlo Park, California with spouse Linda. He passed away in late October 2010.
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4 Responses to The really big post (part 2)

  1. Beth Ann Daye says:

    No comment needed. I just send love and understanding….

  2. Matthew D-G says:

    I agree–no comment needed. But, I will say, a poignant and moving glimpse into how life moves from under us, and we must either go into free-fall or move with it; or maybe both at different times. It reminds me of a Mary Oliver poem Frannie quoted recently, about how we contain both joy and grief within us. You are beloved and prayed for, and you both inspire us daily.

  3. Chris – I’d take your ground-level raw emotional perspective over Dr. Dawkins’ detached academability any day. We are – I am – privileged to call you friend and to read of your journey.

  4. Chris Gulker says:

    Beth and Matthew,

    Thanks to you both for your support. I hope you both know we write not to garner sympathy but to help us both work through these sometimes-difficult days.

    It does help to have a third-party-eye’s view… our thanks.

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