My chemotherapy has included strong doses of oral steroids the last four days, followed by interrupted sleep each night.
I fell asleep about 11 last night, after a couple days of watching, reading and listening to lots of tributes to the late Stuart Scott. I was back awake sometime after 2. Trying unsuccessfully to get to back sleep, flashes of his ESPY speech last night looped through in my memory:
These were the words that echoed in my head, eventually pulling me from the bed and toward the computer:
“When you die, that does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and in the manner in which you live.”
In a Nov. 25 blog post, when I did not have my official diagnosis yet, but knew my body was filled with lumps that didn’t look good on the first scan, I wrote about different types of plagiarism. Here’s what I wrote about the origins of ideas:
The group that was writing Telling the Truth and Nothing But discussed whether theft of ideas was plagiarism. We decided it wasn’t but stated in the book that you should credit ideas that clearly influence your work:
Journalists should attribute the original, distinctive or seminal ideas of others when the ideas form a substantial basis for their own work.
Some ideas lead directly to other stories: You read a good story from another community and decide if the same thing is happening here and produce a story that’s entirely original in its content, but inspired by someone else. That story might not even have a place to smoothly attribute the idea. But you can include a “related link” to the original story. Perhaps you credit with a “hat tip” in social media or send the reporter an email, thanking her for the inspiration.
Other inspiration is more indirect. You see a story in other media and admire the story. You may think you should do something like that someday, but you don’t start working on your version yet. And when you do start your version, you may or may not remember the source(s) of your inspiration. Or maybe you don’t plan to do your version, but later events on your beat prompt you to do a similar story. You take the same approach, but you may not even remember where you got the idea. You may genuinely think it was your own.
I didn’t watch the ESPYs live last July, but I do think I heard the full Scott clip, and certainly the full speech, over the next few days. I don’t recall clearly thinking about the speech at all when, in November, I was also working on the early drafts of the post where I announced my second cancer diagnosis.
My post included these passages below, an echo/inspiration of Stuart Scott that I freely credit now:
Let’s get one thing straight: If Steve Buttry Cancer 2.0 doesn’t come out the way I’m hoping, I don’t want anyone saying I “lost a battle” with cancer. I kicked cancer’s ass back in 1999 and lived a wonderful 15-plus years since my first diagnosis. If my second round doesn’t end as well, I still won. …
My doctors and I expect me to beat this. But obviously I’m aware of the other possibility. If my death certificate someday lists cancer (whether it’s this lymphoma or something else that becomes 3.0) under “cause,” that’s just a late touchdown to keep me from running up the score.
The rest of the post recounted at some length highlights of the 15 years since my 1999 diagnosis and surgery for colon cancer: how I’ve lived since cancer.
Though I chose my own words and don’t remember any direct inspiration from Scott when I was writing and editing that, the shared themes of beating cancer, but recognizing that you might die from it eventually, are clear. That speech touched me in July, when my latest cancer probably was growing but not yet detected, and some thread of inspiration doubtless remained somewhere in my writer’s memory as I tried to articulate my own new experience.
But, as I try to identify those threads, I see others. I’m not going to rewatch the famed Jimmy Valvano ESPY speech from 1993 (before my first cancer diagnosis) or the Robin Roberts Espy speech from 2013, but I watched both of them and either might have inspired as well. (I’ve noted before my family’s connection to Roberts, and I’ve followed her career and illnesses closely since.)
I did recall when I was writing in November that Jean McGuire’s obituary last June said:
In her last days she promised to haunt her husband if he included in her obituary that she had ‘lost a courageous battle with cancer.’ She despised such metaphors. She faced death as she faced the challenges of raising a Down syndrome child, with grace and class and humor.
I’ve blogged about Tim’s book “Some Even Take Them Home” and his McGuire on Life blog have told the story of their life, her death and his process of grief. But I didn’t (and don’t) see a need to make a connection in my December post about cancer to Jean’s (and Tim’s) and my respective views of the battle metaphor. Though we both expressed distaste for seeing the cliché applied to us, Jean rejected it entirely but I embraced in claiming victory. I couldn’t credit that, given our varying views. A parenthetical mention to her distaste, with a link to the obit, would have been appropriate, but would have shifted the flow of my personal story at a critical point.
I don’t think thought even briefly about detouring into enough focus on the metaphor to merit such a mention. But I remembered Jean’s distaste as I worked on my own attack on the “battle.”
Update: Tim has written a response to this post. I recommend it.
As cancer survivors support each other, my repeated encouragement to new cancer patients over the past five-plus years, including Tim and Jean, was to tell them about my growing distance from cancer, often counted in the anniversaries of my surgery victory over cancer, after years of heavy focus on the healing of my colon (including a second 2006 surgery). As the distance grew, cancer became less a part of daily life, just an old battle won. And when the 10th anniversary passed, I was so cancer-free I didn’t even notice the anniversary until a few days later. I doubt I ever (or often) used battle and victory language in telling the story, but it was clearly the origins of my story of beating cancer.
In 2013, a brother-in-law lost his brother-in-law after 17 years of cancer treatment. I had become friends with this man just beyond the extended family over the years, chatting at weddings and other family gatherings, including visits to his home, and probably ours, too. My note of condolence to my brother-in-law mentioned beating cancer:
I remember 14 years ago when I was diagnosed with cancer, Maynard was one of the examples cited to me that you could beat cancer. I don’t know the ages of his grandchildren, but the 17 years he had since his diagnosis is the lifetime of a grandchild who’s a high school junior or senior. What a blessing for him to have had all that time with his grandchildren (and his children as they faced the joys and challenges of parenthood) and for them to have all that time with him.
(A response confirmed that yes, his oldest granddaughter would be graduating high school the following spring.)
So my thinking about the life you live after your diagnosis as your victory over cancer, however the end comes, predated hearing Scott’s powerful expression of the idea.
I don’t think anything here approaches plagiarism, though I welcome feedback if you disagree (I’ll be inviting feedback from @blippoplappo and @crushing bort, the plagiarism-focused pseudonymous bloggers I interviewed last year.)
I just wanted to share some thoughts about inspiration and credit Stuart Scott belatedly for his inspiration. And now I want to get back to sleep.
A quick reaction from Christoph Trappe, who probably also needs to get back to sleep: