Sunday, August 25, 2013

The cancer survivors park

Marilyn and I ran across a sculpture garden devoted to cancer survivors in a park near downtown Santa Rosa, California. It's properly known as the Richard and Annette Bloch Cancer Survivors Plaza at Fremont Park, and it was an unexpected pleasure and an inspirational place.

After spending some time there, I found myself wondering why there aren't more places like this, tangible art installations where those of us fighting cancer can take time to reflect and find encouragement. And then, lo and behold, I looked it up on the internet and found that there are 24 of these in the U.S. and Canada, all sponsored by the R.A. Bloch Cancer Foundation. It turns out that Richard Bloch, a founder of the tax service H & R Block, was a lung and colon cancer survivor who died of heart failure in 2004 at the age of 78. His foundation does more than encourage public art, but it is the art that captures the imagination in a way that words sometimes can't.

The park does contain some pretty good words, by the way, which can be found on numerous plaques offering spot-on cancer-fighting advice. One grouping of plaques is known as the Positive Mental Attitude Walk.

So consider visiting a cancer survivors park near you. Below are some photos we took in Santa Rosa, just in case you can't make it there. All the parks have the same sculpture by Victor Salmones, depicting people of various ages entering -- and emerging from -- the challenge of cancer, represented by a series of distorted squares. You'll see me in one photo, ready to leave the last square; I have also updated my photo at the top of the blog to reflect the way I look now -- namely, hairless. 

Speaking of surviving cancer, I have now completed three rounds of R-EPCH, which came on top of two rounds of OFAR. The tumor burden is vastly reduced; during my last treatment there was no threat of tumor lysis and no significant increase in LDH. It appears that the chemo has done most of what it can do. Nodes are still palpable under my arms, but none can be felt in the abdomen. That doesn't mean they're not there; to see where things stand, a PET scan may be in order soon. It's likely there will be between one and three more rounds of chemo, followed by a maintenance drug to get me past January 1, when new health insurance kicks in and provides coverage for a stem cell transplant. It looks like I will be having an interesting year; may yours be as dull as possible.

"There is no such thing as false hope for a cancer patient. Hope is as unique with each individual as a fingerprint. For some it is the hope to make a complete recovery. But it might also be the hope to die peacefully; the hope to live until a specific event happens; the hope to live with disease; the hope to have their doctor with them when needed; the hope to enjoy today." -- Richard A. Bloch