Life’s “Gong-able” Moments


There’s no doubt my youngest brother is happy to see the tailend of 2016. His year has been especially brutal and if not for an off-the-chart stubbornness gene, I’m sure he wouldn’t have survived it. 

Already in a wheelchair as the result of an accident, over the years he has had vertebrae in his back fused as well as 3 hip replacements. The last one was complicated by botched surgery, a broken femur, and the loss of a hip socket. The result is one leg three inches shorter than the other that has made walking impossible (thus the wheelchair). No one should be surprised or judgmental about the challenges with addiction that were also part of that journey.

His 2016 began with neurosurgery to fuse vertebrae in his neck. Deemed risky but lifesaving, a surgeon’s self-admitted error resulted in it having to be done twice. The second surgery meant months of non-relenting pain, infection, and exhausting rehab. 

But, just as he was coming up for air, he was slammed with a diagnosis of leukemia that required extensive chemotherapy. The good news is that despite the debilitating side effects, the chemo was successful in holding the cancer at bay and getting his white blood cell count back to within a normal range.

This past week, my mother, son, and I unknowingly, but somewhat serendipitously, chose to visit my brother on what was his last day of chemo.

While on the way into the treatment room we had taken note of a very large gong standing at the entrance. However, we hadn’t realized its significance until, removing the needle from my brother’s arm as the last bag emptied, the nurse reminded him that he would get to “bang the gong on the way out” to announce the completion of his journey.

While at first he was reticent, it was explained that it was important to note and celebrate his success for both himself as well as the others in the room. He agreed, and with that we all moved toward the exit, where the nurse ceremoniously handed him the drumstick and announced his name.  Accompanied by loud applause from patients and staff as well as his emotional and teary-eyed family members, David John banged that gong with an unbelievable amount of vigour, yelled out “Just say no to cancer!”, and promptly left the building with a huge grin plastered on his face. 

It goes without saying that I’m wishing many more gong-able moments for my sweet bro, but may you and yours be mindful of the importance of seeking and celebrating them as well.  May you have a happy, healthy, and joyous new year.


Posted on 01-01-17

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