My dear neighbors Kerry and Paul DeGregorio were kind enough to ask their parish — St. Richard’s — to hold a mass to pray for my health. This is an honor I’ve never had, and I appreciate the gesture enormously. My parents, Jing, and I all attended, and it was comforting how familiar the service is no matter where you are in the world.
In part, I find all this attention unsettling: in addition to the mass last Friday, my friend from graduate school and his family (Carolyn’s god parents) are visiting this weekend, along with Jing’s cousin from China (Quinn’s god mother), and my postdoctoral advisers (one of them Sophie’s god father). Later in the summer, my roommate from college and his girlfriend will visit as well. It’ll be a veritable parade of guests through our house. I used the word “unsettling” because I don’t look or feel or act sick anymore. At this point, it’s hard to even see the scars, unless you know where to look. If anything, I’m in the best physical shape I’ve been in for over a decade. There were some cognitive fuzziness immediately after surgery, now resolved. I’m a bit uncomfortable being the center of attention, especially when I’m not convincingly playing the part of “ailing patient.”
Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I’m delighted to be up and about, and I certainly don’t want anyone’s pity. Pity corrodes the soul. Rather, it’s a mark of how delicate I have to be when discussing or even thinking about this illness. It’s certainly life-altering; there’s no way around that. It is also potentially life-threatening. But all that aside, I’m confident that the various prognostic factors are lining up in my favor, and I’m doing everything I can to help the odds. I fully expect to be around for years and decades to come. But as much as I want to create what psychologists call “positive expectancies” (why can’t they just say “positive expectations” like normal people?), I don’t want it to morph into over-confidence. The key is to keep my mind disciplined and continue doing all the things I need to do to delay recurrence or prevent it entirely. Likewise, I want to make the most of the window of neural plasticity that’s available to me, so I’ll continue doing my cognitive rehab with the utmost vigor and enthusiasm. Meanwhile, prayers and well-wishes are greatly appreciated, provided that everyone understands that the crisis is largely over and that my health is quite good at the moment. You are not going to find me in bed with the shades drawn; there is too much to do.