Christopher Reeve’s widow, Dana, just announced she was facing a battle with lung cancer. I was overwhelmed! This beautiful, 44-year-old actress, with a 14 year old son, lost her husband less than a year ago. Christopher Reeves, the star of the Supermen movies, died nine years after he broke his neck, rendering him quadriplegic. Her steadfast support of him during those years, filled me, and the world, with admiration. She is the Chairwoman of the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation which has raised tens of millions of dollars for spinal cord injury research and treatment. I was overwhelmed by the unfairness of it, two people in the prime of their lives, facing life-threatening illnesses.
Dana said she was disclosing the illness only because a tabloid was about to do so. In the Associated Press release (8/10/05), she said “I feel Chris with me as I face this challenge. In the face of life’s adversities, I look to him as the ultimate example of defying the odds. He is my example of strength and joy for life. She wants to go back to acting.
The more I read the article the less overwhelmed I became by the sorrow of it and the more overwhelmed I became by the courage of it. One makes a heroic journey of ones life by living it. Dana’s story reminded me of Rick Fields. Rick was the editor-in-chief of the Yoga Journal, poet and practicing Buddhist, whose book Instructions to the Cook (with Bernard Glassman) is an astounding distillation of Zen wisdom. At age 53, Rick was diagnosed with lung cancer. He was treated by surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and every imaginable alternative medicine. He lived four years with stage 4 metastatic lung cancer, outliving by years, the doctors expectations, during which time he did an interview for a Buddhist quarterly. He said he was so savoring the moments of his life right now; he was so acutely aware of love and small pleasures that he no longer felt he had a life-threatening disease, but rather, was a leading a disease-threatening life.
The great gift of the Dana’s and Rick’s of the world are that they help free us from the fear of life-threatening disease, if we can come to every day living until we die. In the game of life, you have to be present to win.