We met on May 7, 2011. You were tall, handsome with piercing green eyes. I was pale, thin, but unabashedly hopeful. I first saw you laying in bed -- hooked up, strapped in, locked down. You were clearly tired but thankful to have your family at your bedside. I was inquisitive, curious, interested to learn about you.
Chemo and I were doing laps when we stumbled upon you. As we slowly crept up to your room, and peered in, I was grateful to find another young adult patient. I wanted to know everything. What was your story, what were your hopes and dreams, what were your biggest fears?
Why did we have to be on floor 16? Couldn't we be sharing a bottle of wine and having a picnic?
I continued walking the halls, connected to my bright red poisonous friend, who was quietly, methodically, carefully killing the cancer that lived within me.
I tried to find you again, but lost you.
On May 8, as I was finishing my routine 18 mile bike ride in place, I slowed down, wiped off the sweat and reentered the sterile world of Hotel Prentice.
There you were -- patiently waiting for me to finish, hoping to engage me, interested in connecting.
I was embarrased to show you my baldness, my emaciated legs, the shell of a person I had since become. You too appeared shy, perhaps nervous, but you quickly set me at ease with your radiating smile.
You stared at me with those piercing green eyes -- and you invited me in.
It has been 3.5 months since we connected. In the last 3.5 months I have worked hard to reenter the world, rebuild my life and strengthen my heart and mind. As I am adding moments, days, months and years -- you, dear Tom, are subtracting time, making amends, saying goodbye.
At 33 you were told you had 11 months to live. At 33 you were forced to figure out how you wanted to leave your mark. At 33 you were trying to decide how you wanted to be remembered.
As I was celebrating my sixth and final round of treatment, you were learning to accept that this was also your finish line. This was your final round -- there were no further treatments that could save you.
"So what will you do with the time you have left? How will you choose to live?"
Tom took a deep breath and said, "I have given this a lot of thought. Sure I would love to visit the Eiffel Tower, the Grand Canyon, and Las Vegas -- but will those places remember me, and will I remember them? It's not about where I go, it's about where I am. It's about the connections I make, the relationships I form, the people I impact -- that will carry on my memory. In these last few months, I hope to strengthen my relationships, and tell those that I care about how much I love them."
Dear Tom, as I re-enter, rebuild, strengthen, and explore the world, I carry you with me. It was only a moment that you and I connected but I am forever changed, touched, moved by your presence, your life, your memory.
As I continue to acquire moments, days, months, and years, may my relationships deepen, my love grow, and my legacy be based on the memories created and the connections made.
They are all I have, all I want, and all I hope for.
Tom, I connect for you, and because of you.
May your next and last few months be filled with laughter, love, happiness and light.