I Have Been Provoked | Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

I have been provoked because I’ve watched cancer in the faces of too many people in too many waiting rooms at too many oncologists at too many cancer centers.” – Gary L. Thompson, 1/7/2015, I Have Been Provoked | Part One

Scan259_2As I shared in my post this morning, The Love of My Life | Timelessness and Love, today, July 14, is the 25th anniversary of Maureen and my marriage. It is a deeply emotional day, because today is the “birthday of us.” A week from today will be our 10th powdered donut day, the 9th since Maureen’s passing on October 21. When you read Timelessness and Love, you will see why it is the 10th, because powdered donut day actually started at the altar where Maureen and I were married, with our kids beside us as we re-blessed our act from 25 years earlier. It didn’t start under the cross at Seton Hospital on 7 North. Another journey started that day… Maureen’s journey to be back with her Father in her heaven, with her God. Each day that passes, I come to understand even more the pure act of love that Maureen graced our family with the morning she passed. Cancer did not win that morning; love did, not just her love, but love itself.

IMG_1454As the title to this installment of I Have Been Provoked makes clear, there is a decided Dr. Seuss theme to this third visit to the idea of being provoked. Once I get past a Part 2, I’ve realized that I am writing about an enduring theme, rather than just sequential parts to the same idea. Dr. Seuss is a rather special theme for I Have Been Provoked, not just because his books are ones we read to our kids when they were younger, but because one such book formed the heart of the Seussical performed 2 years ago at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, when Kyla, our middle daughter, was in 6th grade. I still remember vividly Sharon Wilson, our lower school head, reading parts of the book from the stage. It was her last performance, because Sharon retired later that school year after over 30 years of service.

These words from Seuss’ “Oh, The Places You’ll Go,” scream out at me from the page, as I think about being provoked:

You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.

The Waiting Place….


Of course, the challenge of the waiting room at the oncologist or a cancer hospital is that folks are not waiting around for a train to go, or a bus to come, or the rain to go, or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow. No, they are waiting for something more powerful. They are waiting around for the ultimate “Yes or No.” They are waiting to hear the oncologist pronounce that yes, you will live, or no, you will not. I still remember being on my knees on the Monday before Maureen passed, looking up into my sweetie’s eyes, with her oxygen, in the waiting room at Texas Oncology South before we drove quickly to Seton Hospital. I think she already knew what I did not yet know. She was about to leave the waiting room. Maureen and her God knew that:

Somehow you’ll escape
all that waiting and staying.
You’ll find the bright places
where Boom Bands Are Playing.

Oh, The Places You'll Go!However, here’s the deal with being provoked, Maureen did not leave the waiting room on October 21, 2014, she left it the day of her diagnosis 11 years earlier. Some of the places she went, included years of playing doubles tennis with her swing sisters, an incredible family reunion in Belgium over the holidays several years ago, with almost 100 aunts, uncles, sisters, cousins, nieces and nephews. As an architect, there are hospitals and schools, as well as the plans for the expansion of our own home, that she created after she left her waiting room. And, there is the imprint of her love that has been left not just on my heart, but our kids’ hearts, her family’s hearts and so many, many more. We were blessed by a great oncologist, however, no oncologist can tell us whether we will live or die. For that matter, we can’t wait for anyone to tell us this. We must decide for ourselves.

Is this easy? HELL NO! I know I am writing in the 2nd person, as a different kind of cancer survivor. As I wrote in Survivorship is Not a Phase | Part 2, I do not write in the 1st person. These cancer cells, these terrorists, were not in my body. They were in someone else’s. To even think that I can understand the emotions or heart of a survivor would be so presumptuous as to be beyond rude. To anyone reading this that has fought cancer or any other life-threatening disease, you have my love and my respect. You are amazing, truly amazing and God bless you. As I think about the many tweet chats and other survivor communities in which I have the privilege of listening, and occasionally speaking, there are amazing people out there. Just thinking about #bcsm or #gyncsm or the lovelies of Beyond the Pink Moon as examples, I am stunned.

As I leave my waiting room, it is each of you that I think about. Each of you is an unbelievable gift, a true blessing in this world, and just like Maureen, cancer has not, can not and will not change that about you. We are never promised tomorrow. None of us. But, we do have today, and there are places we can all go today. Just imagine the incredible power of the over 30 million cancer survivors that can be unleashed today. Imagine the incredible power of adding just one person in each of these circles of love to those places we can all go… it doesn’t take a lot of counting to realize that not long and all of a sudden we are at 250 million people with places to go, and I suspect there may be just a few more. We can changes things, but as Dr. Seuss reminds us:

You’ll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you stop.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dextrous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

oh-the-places-you-ll-go-dr-seuss-screenshot-5Today, for me, is about two things: love and what love can unleash. I’ve realized that the past several months, since Maureen’s passing, have been my own kind of waiting place. I have too much love in my heart to stay there any longer. Will I succeed? I don’t know. Can we all succeed? Dr. Seuss has the answer to that question:

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)


As my anniversary day continues, I know Maureen would not just want me to talk about the last 25 years. She would want to me to talk about the future. She would want me to talk about powdered donuts. She would want me to talk about love, and she would want me to talk about the places we’ll go. I can think of no better words by which to close than those on the last page of Dr. Seuss’s “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!”

be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O”Shea,
you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So… get on your way!

We’re on our way sweetie… it is time for Boom Bands… and for unleashing the power of love.