Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hyperactivity, and it feels so good

Those who know me often tell me that I can't seem to stand still. My idea of a vacation is to see things. My idea of relaxation is, well, to do something. My idea of an ideal beverage is strong coffee. Notice a pattern? While I often think it would be nice to stop and just relax, I don't think I'm really capable of that. I go through life with a long list of things I want to do, never actually having the time to do it all. As with all things, I suppose I could blame my parents: two people who never stop thinking of the next chore they want to take on or the next thing that needs to be fixed. I guess I see the world around me as a place that needs fixing.

I write this now because over the past few months I've taken on more things to do. For starters, I participated in the lobbying days at the New Jersey State House from November to January to support civil marriage equality for same-sex couples in our state. While that effort was unsuccessful in the state legislature, it sharpened for me the degree to which lesbians and gay men are still thought of as second-class citizens and how much work remains to be done to educate the public and our political leaders about that inequality. The fight has moved on to the state Supreme Court but, in the meantime, it has energized many of us who spent many cold mornings outside and inside the State House to continue the fight at the state and Federal levels with the ultimate objective of securing full equality in all matters governed by the law.

Much of the testimony before the New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee in December, as that committee considered the marriage equality bill, touched on matters relating to health insurance coverage, hospital visitation rights, and medical decision-making power for same-sex couples. That testimony highlighted just three examples of the disparities faced by lesbians and gay men in the medical setting. As a two-time cancer survivor, I realized all the more the extent to which we in the LGBT community are vulnerable to bias in the law as well as in common practice. Add to that some of the cancer risks more prevalent among LGBT people and some of the other unique obstacles we face, and I realized that we needed a resource for New Jersey's LGBT community specific to the experience of cancer. So, aided by two other gay men who are cancer survivors, I started up the New Jersey LGBT Cancer Support Group which now holds monthly meetings at the Pride Center of New Jersey.

I was asked soon after that to become a moderator on TC-Cancer forum, a site that was a critical element in my clinical treatment for and emotional recovery from my second cancer diagnosis. Through that site, I've made many wonderful friends, learned a great deal, rejoiced in victories, mourned the loss of far too many people, and discovered that one of the best ways of overcoming cancer is to help others in their own fights. Being a moderator means doing more of what I've discovered has been a win-win: by helping others, I help myself come to terms with my own cancer experience.

Last night, I took on developing a Central New Jersey chapter of the Voices of Survivors Foundation with the goal of bringing together cancer survivors in our region to celebrate our own survivorship not only for own sakes but to offer hope to others facing cancer. Survivorship begins the day one is diagnosed and encompasses an important mindset with respect to feeling empowered to fight and overcome the psychological weight cancer represents.

Then there's the Philadelphia LIVESTRONG Challenge. I bought my first bike last October after resisting for a long time. I was afraid of the cars, didn't want to spend so much money on myself, and just didn't think I'd have the stamina for it. Well, I love cycling. I'm not particularly fast and I'm terrible at hills. But it sure beats running, an activity I had taken up for last year's Challenge, in that it's more fun for me and a lot easier on my middle-aged joints. So with the weather finally getting better, it's time to dust off the bike and hit the roads again so I can be in good form for Philadelphia in August. Meanwhile, my overpriced running shoes beckon so maybe I'll even fit a run in every once in a while.

There's also weight lifting, my plans to completely redo our family room, upgrade my computer, improve our garden now that spring is here, etc. Oh, and I'm also a mid-level manager at a large corporation. There's no end to the hyperactivity. I often feel I've bitten off more than I can chew. But if I didn't, I'd feel bored. I guess I'll just need to drink more coffee.