Tag Archives: Irish

The Heart and Soul Behind Catch a Cure

12091395_10102696255289636_8511669274550224479_oI’ve had a few very kind anglers praise this project, and my ambition to eradicate skin cancer from our planet, and I’m grateful for every kind word, but I’d be remiss to take some kind of credit when there are people, and one specifically, who might not be blogging, who might not be on Facebook, but who is a hundred times the human being I will ever be, and who inspires me every day.

Pictured above is Marilyn Jones, my hero and my best and oldest friend. Ms. Jones, or ‘Nana’ as she’s know to those of us close to her, reminds me every day, every time I’m home, and with each phone conversation, how strong a human being can be, what we can endure, and how we can remain positive.

Marilyn Jones was born in 1934 into poverty, and has worked almost every day of her entire life. More than that, she has created a unique, accepting and loving atmosphere for her seven children and 13 grandchildren… a place where we all feel “home,” in a way we might not anywhere else.

When grandchildren started coming (I was the first in 1986), Marilyn closed up the doors of her yarn shop, where she knitted amazingly beautiful garments and sewed anything that needed mending, and began caring for the next generation. She watched me, my younger cousins, and a host of fortunate toddlers in Upstate New York and saw them through to the beginnings of adulthood. I have friendships to this day that were born in that daycare, and some of my closest friends are from those earliest days.

I am not, nor will I ever be a good enough writer to express how kind and compassionate, strong and beautiful of a woman this is, and I’d do her an injustice just in trying. In a single day, she’ll tell me she’ll mend ripped jeans, cook something delicious for dinner, tell stories from her past that will make you laugh until you cry, or cry until you laugh, and do it all in such a way that reminds you that there is nothing in life you cannot overcome… indeed she has been faced with and challenged by the most heartbreaking of human conditions, whether that was losing loved ones, suffering medical difficulties herself, or… most recently, losing her beloved West Highland White Terrier, Duffy.

But before she even has breakfast or reads the paper, takes her myriad of medications that keep her functioning as best she can, she has an idea for what to do that day, what can be accomplished, what problem can be fixed, what hope can be sewn where there was none before.

She is everything, every day, that I hope that I might some day become, and I am the most fortunate of men to have had her presence in my life for as long as I can remember.

On The Irish…

1421028_10102905685639536_4753140964686029423_oThe Irish, as is evidenced by this blog, are first and foremost… procrastinators. I was thinking about my heritage yesterday. My mother’s side of the family are Gillorens, tracing back to Killorglin, Ireland and my father’s mother was a McCabe… and of course it doesn’t get much more Irish than that.

I was thinking about our, my heritage, and trying to piece together the puzzle that we all grapple with each day. It occurred to me that the Irish, especially, are at an elevated risk for skin cancer because we’re such a fair-skinned people. That’s not to say anyone can ignore the inherent risks, but when you’re Irish, you can get a sunburn getting the mail in the morning… or at night if there’s a full moon.

And I’ve seen in Irish friends and family, that we’re more easily affected emotionally too. We can be tough as nails (I have one Irish uncle who is a prison guard and another who drives an 18-wheeler back and forth to Harlem every day) but we care more, and are more easily impacted by events in our lives that others might let pass them by without a thought. We think more, sometimes more than is necessary, and tend to overanalyze, sometimes to our own detriment.

I think we are more deeply moved by both life’s great joys and difficult periods. This isn’t bragging, if anything there are times when I wish I cared less, but as an Irish friend once put it,┬áin a wise phrase that seems more fitting with each day I survive: “It is what it is.”

But I don’t think the essential question for us, as human beings, is “What are we like — what is our nature?” I think the essential question is: “How can we use that, once we understand it, to contribute toward a greater good for those we have the capability of impacting?”

If, being Irish, I’ve taken melanoma coming into my life more personally than someone else might, if I’ve held onto it, wrestled with it, hated it… that is and will be my nature. But that is not the question that needs answering.

The question that needs answering, of all of us, always, is a simple one: “What are you going to do about it?” Hopefully, thanks in large part to all of our sponsors, I’m answering that every day.