Saturday, May 1, 2010


We all know someone who has cancer or who has succumbed to it. We have many friends fighting it right now. It is unscrupulous and devastating as a disease. It takes away all your happy thoughts as you try to survive.
This young man put it very succinctly. He is Alex Mitchell and he is fighting cancer.

"On a plane back from Memphis, Tennessee, I am thinking how to formulate an answer to a rather general Dear A Mitch question: a boy did this, a girl said that, mayhem ensues. It feels trivial. In fact, it is. After a three-day check up at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, school seems inconsequential, and the twenty-five pages of screenplay I have due on Monday leaves the forefront of my mind. This article feels more important. More substantive. More emotionally satisfying. Please forgive my selfishness.

You probably already know I had brain cancer. If not, I had brain cancer. Every three months I return to St. Jude, the place I called home for nearly a year. These are, undoubtedly, the most humbling moments in my life.

Life in this part of Memphis is a hard slap in the face. One ride on a rickety hospital shuttle is telling. Rich brick estates quickly melt to the broken streets and dilapidated housing of South Memphis, a perfect resting spot for America’s best children’s cancer hospital. Two blocks from St. Jude sits the popular Shelby County Jail, and subsequently, roughly thirteen jail bond businesses. Not to forget the liquor stores, pawn shops, blood donation centers, crack heads, and a surplus of loiterers living bleakly on a malt liquor and Wendy’s Dollar Menu diet. Southern Memphis is a poverty-ridden-hellhole of crime and anguish, a dead end for aspirations. Needless to say, there is an eight-foot wrought iron fence surrounding all St. Jude properties.
St. Jude attempts to be the happiest place on earth. They are largely successful, from the doctors, to the nurses and the janitors, these are among the most genuinely nice people I have ever met. The walls are painted into playground scenes, the ceilings glittering with stars, a contrasting environment to the white washed walls of most other hospitals. To be quite literal, St. Jude is hands down the best place you could ever take a kid with cancer. Its treatment is revolutionary (my doctor designed my protocol, SJMB03). Though in all its glory, it is nonetheless, full of cancer-laden children.

When you’ve been in the cancer world a while you start to get a sense of who has a high survival rate, and unfortunately, who doesn’t. In any given waiting room there are two Southern folks comparing their kids’ diagnoses, and no matter how sweet the drawl, fourth stage neuroblastoma cuts deep. Glioblastoma steals all the air from your lungs. Thanks for trying, life, better luck with your next religion. The kids never really grasp the concept their parents fear. If they can walk, they will run, zipping by you screaming enthusiastically. At St. Jude, ignorance is a child’s bliss, and knowledge, a parent’s nightmare. Say the prayers, keep the hope, I am sure miracles happen every day, but sometimes they take breaks in Memphis.

I don’t want you to cry. I don’t want you to hold the hurt I feel looking into the empty eyes of a helpless family. I want you to take a deep breath and reflect on the life you live here in sunny Southern California. Think about all the privileges and freedoms you have to lead a healthy life. Think about your family and friends and how much they mean to you. Take a step back from the drama that is thesis, your final papers, your summer internship – whatever is consuming your every thought. Let the stress roll out of your fingertips as you imagine how good your life truly is. Collins is repetitive, DOS is infringing, a boy did this, a girl said that. Smile, you’re alive, people love you. You will be successful. Call your family, they miss you.

At some point in your life someone told you not to sweat the small stuff. Not everything is small, but most of it is not worth worrying about. Eventually everything will work out, I promise.
If you are feeling like your pockets have a little too much cash in them. If your momma doubled that fat allowance and you need to drop some of those dollars before the summer, send a little St. Jude’s way, they’ll appreciate it."

"imgaine how good your life truly is..." wow, that says it, doesn't it?

And do give to St. Jude's and Children's Hospital and Hospice and so on and so on. They are major benefactors of FFA fundraising. Many chapters raise thousands for them each year.

That's enough for me to lift my spirit and Praise God and get back to work helping others as the farming wraps up.

Have a great day,

Ed Winkle


  1. All the journalism degrees in the world don't hold a candle to one story told from the heart. May God bless both Alex and you.

  2. That cancer is a real killer in more ways than one Gorges. Took my dear cousin Sue way to early, just getting into grandmothering. I know so many who didn't make it that far. Such is life, it will end in death, make all of that life and never quit.