Daily Survival Kit for Serious Illness by Thomas L. McDermitt
A long-time cancer patient and skeptic.
(You don't have to agree with all of this all of the time. But if it generally speaks to you, try to read all or parts of it every day, or have it read to you. Part of the help is in the doing, regardless of your attitude or emotions on that day. On some levels the help is gradual and often not evident.)
Today I am going to try to live through this day only, and not dwell on or attempt to solve all my problems at once; just focus on the piece that is today. I can do something for several hours that would be difficult to even think about continuing for several months.
Just for today, I am willing to accept the possibility that there is a purpose to this suffering; that it can be a source of meaning and growth for myself and others, though I may not always recognize the ways. And it seems possible that this suffering will not be in vain, because of what may be some kind of existence beyond.
Just for today, let me remind myself that I am basically a worthwhile person, worth loving, despite my faults and limits. I deserve the efforts of others to help me through my illness.
Just for today, I want to be aware that it is all right to want too much from others at times. Illness brings out and intensifies the small child in all of us. And if I feel hurt when those who care for me cannot be there, it may help to remember that they have needs, frailties, and limitations of their own. A lack of response does not mean that they are personally rejecting me.
Today I may feel the need to complain a great deal; I may have little tolerance; I may cry; I may scream. That does not mean that I am less courageous or strong. All are ways of expressing anger over this mess, of rightly mourning my losses. Endurance itself is courage.
It is my life at stake now. So maybe today I can allow myself to be a little less concerned about the reactions or impressions of others. Maybe I can allow myself to feel a little less guilty or bad about what I did not accomplish or give. Perhaps today I can be a little more gentle toward myself.
Surviving this is all so difficult. At times it seems impossible - that I have had enough. Down the line I will know if and when I have had enough, when I cannot push the limits any further. I will have the right to choose to stop, without feeling that I am "giving up." But today I think I can deal with this illness. Sorrow runs very deep, but I think I can rise again.
Just for today,maybe I can give healing "the benefit of the doubt." The drugs are powerful; the natural healing capacity of my body is powerful. And who knows, perhaps there is healing power in my will to struggle, and in the collective love and will of others.
Just for today, perhaps I can take heart that we are all connected. And I may still have some things left to contribute to the family of man; some light to add to the light. Even now my endurance (however imperfect) is a gift, an inspiration for others in their struggles.
It seems reasonable that there is a season for everything, and a time for every purpose. Pain, weakness and exhaustion may distort my senses and spirit. Today, however, I can at least find some hope in nature's way, if not in some master plan. The chances are fairly good, and it seems worthwhile to hope that I will have some cycle of wellness yet.
Out of the generosity and kindness of one individual, the thoughts and writing of Thomas L. McDermitt are being offered, by request and free of charge, as a portable card. Please write to:
firstname.lastname@example.org . Remember to include your name, mailing address, and the number of cards you are requesting.
The following is so worth reading if you have cancer or know of someone who does. It is an all inspiring piece about Thomas L McDermitt written by someone very special and close to him.
Hello, my name is Hope Raymond and I would like to thank you for your interest in the Tom McDermitt Fund. He and I met in August of 1995 while visiting a mutual friend in the hospital. Six months passed until we re-met and spent the next eight years together.
Tom was a long time cancer survivor, and during the last year of his life, he was deeply involved in the work of Gilda’s Club Delaware Valley. He facilitated the prostate/bladder and blood cancer support groups and facilitated other groups when needed. He loved the Saturday Men’s Breakfast and immersed himself in outreach and educational efforts at the clubhouse. His fund pays the salary of the facilitator of the two support groups mentioned, and it financially supports the Saturday men’s breakfast, “For Men Only” (a new discussion group for men started in 2011), and other activities offered at Gilda’s Club.
It is my privilege to offer you a glimpse into Tom’s life. He grew up in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and was one of four children of Anna and Leo McDermitt. After graduation from Villanova, he worked as a social worker at Children’s Protective Services in Philadelphia. He later worked at Carson Valley School, a residential and non-residential facility for at-risk youth, where he became the Director for Clinical Services. At age 35 he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins B-cell lymphoma. He had four recurrences, received 11 different rounds of chemotherapy, 2 rounds of radiation, and finally 2 courses of Bexxar. The second round of Bexxar gave him a seven year hiatus from his primary cancer. In October of 2003, he was diagnosed with one type of myeloid dysplastic syndrome, a precursor to leukemia. He also dealt with bladder cancer as well as other long term effects of his treatments. He propelled himself through each disease, its illness, and his wellness.
Tom was deeply loved by his family, friends, and many persons he met along his “path” (as he called it). Cancer takes away a lot of a person, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Tom, through his example, taught that while one’s dignity may be assaulted, it can not be taken unless surrendered. For many, he brought an added understanding of suffering, passion, perseverance, respect, love, loyalty, hope, vulnerability, and the importance of asking for and accepting support. For the last ten years of his life, he offered counseling to individuals and couples. If you could not come to him, he came to you.
He was a frequent presenter at local and non-local workshops; a participant on various cancer panel discussions; and developed in-service programs in the cancer community. He spoke before the FDA and a Congressional panel which led to Bexxar being accepted as first-line treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
Lastly, Tom inspired and was inspired. He encouraged and was encouraged. He died in May of 2004 surrounded by his family and his family of friends.
His fund is a means to continue what was a life force for him, giving back. His card, “Daily Survival Kit for Serious Illness,” was written over a year’s time and was supported by Mrs. Jean Meyers and the James Meyers cancer support group. He was an original member of the Meyers group and was the group facilitator during the last five years of his life. The card was hugely important to Tom. It offers quiet support, encouragement, acceptance and understanding. The size of this card (3 and 5/8 inches by 6 and 11/16 inches) makes it easy to display and distribute.
The card is available on this website and on other cancer-related and non-cancer web sites. Also, GlaxoSmithKline bought the copyright to the card and supports its royalty- free reproduction to anyone who would benefit. If you would like to receive printed cards, we are happy to send you as many as you would like, as often as you would like, at absolutely no cost (even shipping and handling is covered). To arrange to receive the cards, please contact me.
Thank you LARGELY and respectfully for your interest in the Tom McDermitt Fund.
If you are interested in supporting the Tom McDermitt Fund’s efforts, Gilda’s Club is happy to accept donations to the fund either through our website or via check. Please make checks payable to “Gilda’s Club Delaware Valley” (with “the Tom McDermitt Fund” on the memo line) and mail to 200 Kirk Road, Warminster, PA 18974. To donate through our website, please fill out the online form, select the button marked “In Memory of,” and then enter Tom McDermitt in the field below. Thank you so very much for your support!