The concept of family is a very complex thing to explain, yet, eerily simply. To me, someone that constitutes family is a person that I value strongly enough to be willing to do anything (within reason) for, at the drop of a hat, if they needed it. If you ask other people to describe or define the term family, I believe you would get a wide variety of responses. There is no right or wrong answer.
The best way I can think of to describe family is that it is analogous to water. Water exists in three different states: as a solid, a liquid, and a gas. Family does too. There is your immediate family, your extended family, and your friends. Like the elements in water, family has different ways of bonding. Which bonds are strongest? In terms of science, and family, it depends on their properties.
I watch a lot of TED Talks. I came across one, although I can’t find it now, which was about this fifty year-long (something like that) study and the most significant factors to living a happy life. What was the answer? In short, the quality of the relationships you cultivate. The people in the study that reported the highest levels of satisfaction in relationships also lived the longest and were happiest later in life. Wow. I figured Bill Gates’ bank account would do it. Anyway, I found this discovery to be thought-provoking, even though it took some self-reflection to come to the conclusion that they may be onto something.
By the way, I do not think that this is the only key to happiness. However, I will mention, and presumably you’ve all heard this before, that being able to enjoy the things that you have seems way more important than how many things you have to enjoy. I’m not saying I don’t ever want more things! I would much, much, much rather hang out with all of you wonderful folks on the mega yacht of my dreams while fishing in the Bahamas!
Nevertheless, since my diagnosis, I no longer have that innate, childish sense of invincibility and immortality. Time seems less vast, and everything seems more…significant, for lack of a better word. It’s weird though. I do tend to see a lot of things differently now. And, that’s where accepting and prioritizing the importance of cultivating relationships begins. In some ways, the people we have in our lives are all that we really have. Can you imagine a world with no human interaction? No relationships? No family? “I’m sorry, Wilson! I’m sorry, Wilson! I can’t! WILSON!” If you’ve seen Castaway, you know that humans definitely beat volleyballs for conversation. Well, at least most humans do…
As I have a said a few times now, I’m no happiness expert. I’m definitely as happy as I’ve ever been though. Moreover, especially lately, I have found that the closest relationships I have, and the people whom I care about most, are, at a minimum, as important to me as anything else. I consider all of these people family, albeit in their different forms. However, like with water, all forms of family are necessary for life.
We, as humans, are very socially oriented creatures. We have evolved to live in groups and in groups is where we thrive. Thus, fortunately enough for me, I’m the luckiest guy on earth (or at least I tend to think so, you can disagree with me if you so desire). You might be thinking that I’m crazy to say that since I’m 29 years old and fighting cancer. Turns out, I’m not crazy. I promise. I have the best family out there, in all three varieties. I don’t say this lightly, and I know how blessed I am to have the people in my life that I do. You guys are the reason I choose to fight so vigorously.
That being said, I want to give a huge shout out to all of you for the way you have rallied around me, supported me, and comforted me in the past few months (you know who you are, knuckleheads). You may think it is trivial and that “anyone would do the same,” but I don’t see it that way. I have seen the content of the character of those around me, and I simply could not be more impressed.
Furthermore, I want to address something that has been on my mind lately. Some of you have mentioned to me, probably without giving it a real thought, that “it sucks” that I have a genetic mutation that is responsible for me having cancer at my age. My response to you is that it doesn’t suck. It’s actually quite awesome. You know why? I got lucky enough to be the child of MY mom and MY dad. You didn’t get that, suckers. Then, I got lucky enough to have an awesome brother and two fantastic sisters. I wouldn’t change any of that for anything that anyone could ever offer.
In the future, I know I will have a family of my own. When that day comes, I hope to provide a fraction of the love, life, and happiness made available to me by my parents and siblings, to my wife and children. I hope to be as wise, hard-working, relentlessly passionate, and resolute as my dad, Jerry. I hope to be as tough, calm, cool, and collected as my mom, Christine. I hope to be as brave as my brother, Andrew. I hope to be as caring as my sister, Erin. I hope to be as strong as my sister, Natalie. And, I hope to enjoy the little things as much as our dog, Kona. I hope you know that I love all of you very much, although I should probably say it out loud more often.
This isn’t the first time my family has dealt with cancer. It’s not the second. And, it’s not the third. I am the fourth one of us to be diagnosed with cancer. If you want to be a part of this family, you had better be a damn Gladiator. Because of their successes, I am unwavering in my position, while drawing on their strength, that if I continue to work fervently through this adversity, I will win my freedom. I think I can! I think I can!
I have received countless messages about my strength, attitude, courage, and resolve. I deserve minimal credit. It, too, is in my genetics. So, while I may have inherited a genetic mutation, I hold fast to the notion that I have won the genetic lottery, based on the simple fact that I inherited the genes of my parents and share the genes of those in my family (Besides the dog, of course. That would just be weird).
To those of you outside of my immediate family, please know that I am fighting for you too. I am fighting so that we can make memories and so that we can share old ones. I am fighting so that I can be the one to be there for you when the time comes that you need a helping hand. I am fighting so that I can watch you grow and develop as human beings. I am fighting so that when you have kids I can come over and bring them toys that make lots of loud noises just to annoy you. And, I am fighting so that I can continue to be a part of your lives.
I am continually motivated and inspired by the love and support that I have received in this trying time. It has not gone unnoticed. I aim to repay you all. Whenever you guys need anything, I will be there. I’ll give you a hard time about it, but I will be there.