We can't all cure cancer, but . . .


I certainly do not blog often, and when I do, its usually about some new camera, tv show, movie, or piece of software I like. I never thought what would bring me back to write something was quite as serious as this post. 

Before this past April, I would classify my life as "comfortable". Working in the big city, in an industry I love, doing a job I would probably do for free, and getting paid a good living to do it. Not only that, I got to stay "home", and live on the Jersey Shore, where I grew up. Nothing like the word CANCER to open the door to reality for you. 

Back in early April, when we got the word that my wife did indeed test positive for breast cancer, a flood of emotions hit you in a wave like no other. The first is denial…"No, that can't be right." or "That only happens to people on tv". Next is fear….a level of fear I wish none of you ever have to feel in your lifetime. Cancer is a crazy scary word. And true fear can eat you inside like a monster. 

It was only once we digested the reality, and figured out how to take this head on and deal with it, did that fear turn into anger. And not anger at the world, or God, or anything like that. Anger at myself. Was it a bit of feeling sorry for myself? Absolutely….but it was still anger. 

When we checked into the hotel at Sloan-Kettering in NYC, there was a boy in the lobby, probably around 12 years old, about the same age as my son Nicholas. His head bald from the obvious chemo treatments he had been going through, looking very frail and weak. It was at that moment that my anger at myself went into overdrive. 

Back when I was in school, I actually did very well, despite the fact that, like many kids, I only did just enough to get by. Skate through, and move on. I thought to myself, that with even the slightest amount of effort, I could have went to medical school. I could have been an oncologist. I could be helping heal little kids with cancer, and I could be changing the world. Instead, I choose to make movies and TV shows. Really? this is the best I could do? Regardless of whatever professional success I have had, what a lazy SOB I felt like. Why would I want to do something as meaningless as this? 

It was the very next morning, and that very same little boy that changed my tune again. As I come down to the lobby, he was there again, sitting on the couch, playing on his iPad, smiling from cheek to cheek. So I sat down for a few minutes and watched him. It was amazing to see how happy he looked. At that moment, he didn't have cancer. He was a normal little boy, he was a Jedi Knight, or the captain of his school football team. For those few minutes, the crappy reality of the real world didn't exist. He was happy, and thats what he deserved. 

We all know Steve Jobs not only couldn't cure cancer, he ultimately succumbed to it. That doesn't mean he didn't change the world. Obviously we cannot all be Steve Jobs, nor do we have to be TV Producers, Movie Directors, Professional Athletes, or Rock Stars. A month or so ago when my sink had a major leak, my plumber was the most important person in the world. The same way that at that moment, that iPad was this little boys escape, and Steve Jobs was the most important person in the world. 

There are many great people that serve this world in ways I can't totally comprehend. Whether its the amazing doctors at cancer centers around the world, policemen and firefighters that rush into collapsing buildings to save people they never met, or teachers that teach our kids at much too low of a pay than they probably deserve. This is what they do, and they are damn good at it. 

I finally realized, all you need to do to change the world is just take whatever it is you do very seriously, and strive to be the best at it. If you do that, somewhere along the way, you too can change the world. Over 20 years ago, my 18 year old self decided that not only could I not cure cancer, I wasn't even going to try.  Now I know that if somewhere there is someone watching a show I worked on, and is being entertained for a few minutes, and escaping the sometimes harsh reality of real life, well then, I'm ok with that.