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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Benefits of Brain Tumors, part 2 (Back by popular demand)

Brain Tumor Benefits, part two                                                      Friday, February 12, 2010

I'm not sure how I miscounted, but my midway point is next Wed, so your midterm will be on Wednesday. I know you're relieved. You have the holiday weekend to study.

This afternoon will be the second of a two-part series on the benefits of having brain tumors.

The most significant benefit of these brain tumors has been the access I've had to communities that I now realize I never had access to before: especially public interactions with homeless people and African Americans. It may be helpful to know that I am White. Pale, actually. Some would say “pasty.”

I have three stories of interactions with people who are homeless that I like best. Each occurred when I started taking the bus after my brain surgery. When I was downtown one day, leaning on my walker and hesitating on a corner to get my bearings to figure out where the bus stop was, two homeless men offered to help me across the street. Since I didn't need to cross the street, I said no thank you, but they insisted, so finally I crossed the street with them. One performed the wild gesticulations of a Frosty the Snowman traffic cop, and the other walked protectively by my side. I said thanks and let them get on down the block before I crossed back.

In another incident, I was riding the bus home from downtown one day while I was still wearing an eye patch on my left eye and a homeless guy next to me was flirting with me. He said to me, "You have the most beautiful [panicked pause] eye."

More recently, a guy who was waiting beside me at the cross walk looked at my cane and asked, “Hurt your leg?” I said, “No. My head.” His eyes travelled slowly from my cane to my face as he said, “Oh.” When his eyes met my crossed ones, his eyes bugged out,  and he said again, with more drama and awareness, this time “Ohhh.” When the light changed, he scurried across as if my tumor were contagious. He’d look back from time to time to make sure I wasn’t too close.

Interactions with African Americans have been the most dramatically different. There is some tension in this area, called Seattle’s Central District, between blacks and whites, particularly because this area has traditionally been an African American neighborhood but with gentrification it's becoming much more White. African Americans of all ages, though, are the most likely to stop and help me or ask me if I need help. Going through the park one day, an African American woman who seemed to be going through chemo stopped me, put her hand on my shoulder, and delivered a graceful prayer. A group of older teenage African American boys hanging out at the park, drinking whiskey and smoking dope, moved aside to allow me to pass and kindly wished me a good day.  It's hard to describe the change, really, but it's quite lovely.

Thanks for checking in and thanks for being one of the good parts. Mary
Originally posted on Friday, February 12, 2010

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