Cycle of Lives – T minus 365

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Days In – 0
Days Away – 365

Today’s Topic: Announcement Day

Today is Announcement Day. I didn’t pick today as some sort of contrivance in order to bring special attention to the fact that this announcement is not an April’s Fool prank. The reason I chose today is not gimmicky in the least. Nor is today strategic in any kind of marketing sense. I chose today because Friday April 1, 2016, is exactly one year away and the day before for my kids’ spring break. My twins, David and Danielle will be 18 years old by this time next year, and they’ll be approaching the end of their adolescent days – as bracketed by their impending high school graduation – and I want them to join me for the first week without missing any days of the last few months of classes. Today is Announcement Day because in exactly one year from now, whether everything goes according to plan or not, I am going to embark upon an epic adventure – one that I hope will come to define a significant piece of my life’s experience, if only to me. What’s my announcement? It’s a little complicated and I need to set the table properly in order to present it correctly, but it involves telling a few important stories related to the collective, varied, multi-faceted human experience of cancer, combined with going on a long bike ride.

I have a lot of ideas about things I’d like to accomplish in my life. I always have had a lot of ideas and hopefully, I always will. One particular idea has been quietly marinating in the deepest, darkest places inside of me for years. This idea was borne from the accumulated experience of a lifetime that has been filled with sometimes a heavy glaze of – and other times a light sprinkling of – isolation, sensitivity and hardship. In the last several years, the idea has been taking on a more discernable form as I have more consciously cultivated its development. And as my emotionable heart and contemplative mind have been privately tending to the idea, I have thrown on little dashes of hope, and desire, and a yearning to do something significant to further help shape its progress. Now, I find myself having transformed the idea from a misty, hidden force dwelling within the furthest recesses of my psyche, into a tangible, visible manifestation. The idea has materialized. The confused, hazy, jumble of thoughts and mini-ideas has become a substantive recipe that I think will fulfill many emotional, physical and psychological longings once served. I’ll be delving much further into these and many other thoughts in the coming months, but in order to set the table properly, I’ll overview a few of the major themes of this project and detail a few essential elements.

The Book

To begin with, my main goal is to produce a worthwhile and meaningful accounting of various human-interest stories involving many aspects of cancer: care, research, fund-raising, diagnosis, treatment, support networks, etc. What do I mean by worthwhile and meaningful? By compiling stories that combine the essence of four aspects, I hope to deliver a manual of sorts; a relatable, inspiring, helpful compendium of memoirs for those afflicted with and affected by cancer. The four aspects that will be examined and explored from various perspectives – are:

1. Types of Cancer – Although there are well over a 100 types of cancer, there are five major categories of cancer, and these will be represented in the stories: Lymphoma (cancer of the lymphocytes), leukemia (cancer of the blood), sarcoma (cancer of the bone, muscle, fat, or cartilage, carcinoma (cancer of the lungs, breasts, pancreas, skin, and other glands and organs), and melanoma (cancer of the cells that make the pigment of the skin).

2. The Stages of Cancer – As with the categories of cancer, each stage of cancer will be represented in the stories told. The basis for determining treatment and predicting recovery, the stages of cancer are commonly determined by three factors: size and growth of the tumor, whether or not the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, and if the cancer has spread to other areas of the body. Cancer stage groupings are categorized from Stage 0 through Stage IV – Stage 0 describing in situ, which means still located the place it started, Stage I describing cancer that has not grown too deeply and has not spread, Stages II and III describing larger tumors or cancers that have grown deeply into nearby tissue and have spread to lymph nodes but not other parts of the body, and Stage IV describing advanced cancer that has spread to other tissues, organs or various parts of the body.

3. The Stages of Life – The stages of life are defined according to varied cultural and religious beliefs. Today, the most widely accepted belief is one that denotes 6 distinct stages of life: birth, infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and death. By choosing stories that encompass all stages of life, a complete picture of the human life cycle can be painted.

4. Basic Human Emotions – Humans may have countless emotions – there are at least 3,000 English-language words available to describe our emotions – but we don’t have countless basic emotions. Theorists, psychologists, teachers, philosophers, pretty much anybody you ask, can seek to identify a different range of basic human emotions that might appear complete when viewed from their perspective. The most widely recognized theorists have descriptions that range from humans having only two basic emotions: pain and pleasure, to us having up to about ten basic emotions: anger, aversion, courage, dejection, desire, despair, fear, hate, hope, love, and sadness. Because this project is not meant to be an evaluation of theory, but rather an exploration of experience, I am going to use Dr. Robert Plutchik’s influential and widely accepted psycho-revolutionary theory that humans have eight basic emotions. These emotions are: anger, fear, sadness, disgust, surprise, anticipation, trust and joy. I’ll get into the basis and reasoning for using this particular theory in the coming months. Generally, in the mid-1980s, Dr. Plutchik’s “Wheel of Emotions”, combined with a color wheel, intended to represent his various postulates which were based on such ideas as pairing emotions, conceptualizing opposing emotions, how emotions help us deal with survival issues, and more, in order to have us better visualize and understand how emotions are formed, connected, and ultimately dealt with. In the context of this project, my focus will be on attempting to understand how these eight basic human emotions drive behavior and coping mechanisms.

By exploring these four facets of life as they relate to the collective human experience of cancer, it is my hope that a multi-dimensional story of stories can be told. If I am successful in that endeavor, then perhaps I will fulfill my wish to provide something significant, useful, and most importantly, helpful, to people no matter their particular location within the “cycle of life.” In the end, the “Cycle of Lives” project seeks to deliver all this in a relatable, understandable, and meaningful story-telling based fashion.

The Bike Ride

The idea for this project centers on my desire to embark on a journey of discovery and understanding, not just in a physical sense, but in a mental, emotional and psychological one, as well. I have an 18-month plan to successfully complete this odyssey as outlined below:

Months 0-6:
• Explore, develop, clarify and adopt the various aspects of the adventure.
• Obtain sponsorships.
• Secure strategic partnering and marketing relationships.
• Begin an ongoing campaign of social media, blogging, and promotion to help build a following.
• Identify and secure the subjects for the book.
• Finalize the route so that I can rendezvous with each subject.
• Train for the ride.
• Prepare to launch a crowd-funding project, if necessary.
• Outline the book, research the subjects, and complete a treatment so that I can obtain interest from an agent/publishing company.
• Blog on a nearly daily basis to document the journey of discovery and understanding – from all perspectives and with an emphasis on relating my experiences to an audience that may identify with many of the concepts explored along the way.

Months 7-12
• Continue all of the above efforts but really focus on going deep into each subject’s story, background, support networks, community, etc.
• Train harder.
• Finalize logistics of the bike ride.
• Secure all intended gear.
• Lock down partnerships, sponsors and social media plan.
• Learn how to film my interviews.
• Partake in a few multi-day rides in preparation.
• Continue to blog.
• Finalize crowd-funding launch, if necessary.

Months 12-14
• From April 1, 2016 until about the end of the first week in June, ride across the country and up the eastern seaboard. The general route will cover about 5,000 miles. I’ll start in Los Angeles and head down to San Diego, then head east through Arizona, the southern tip of New Mexico and across southern Texas. Continuing across the southern United States, I’ll bike through Louisiana, the southern tips of Mississippi and Alabama until reaching the Atlantic Ocean via the northern length of Florida. Next, I’ll zigzag my way up the coast through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland. I plan to complete the journey in Washington D.C.
• Meet with each of the 15-20 subjects that are the basis of the stories I will document.

Months 15-18
• Continue to follow the stories and finalize the first complete draft of the “Cycle of Lives” book.
• Continue to blog.
• Outline a publication strategy if one was not previously determined.

Naturally, the months subsequent to the first 18 months will center on book publication, marketing, video completion and distribution, and all related activities.

Exploration, Observation, Assessment, and Analysis

Part and parcel to this journey will be a parallel blogging project documenting my evolution, motivations, reasoning, actuations, and cleansing processes. No topic or perspective will be safe from exploration, observation, assessment, or analysis. By having an “open book” approach in discussing all the physical, emotional and mental issues, I am hoping the project will allow me to fully self-examine the inside and outside forces as much as can be examined.

It is not my intention to combine the documenting of my personal journey in any significant way with the final “Cycle of Lives” project. Rather, I’ll be attempting to have this particular journaling play only a contextual relationship to the journey that is the unabridged and replete “Cycle of Lives” journey.

Tomorrow’s Blog Topic – Self-assessment, Day 1.

David Richman
Exploring slivers of the infinite Cycle of Lives.