Friday, May 25, 2012


(I wrote this a few weeks ago, but never published it. I guess I didn't find it that interesting. But here it is now, anyway.)

As many of you know, Adam Yauch ("MCA") of the Beastie Boys passed away recently. From cancer. Of the salivary gland.

It's weird. People die of this disease every day. It seems like I read or hear about cancer (unrelated to my own situation) probably 10 times a day. And when you actually HAVE cancer, you're forced to grow thick skin, rhinoceraus skin, in order to persevere, or it'll crush you. You simply can't get emotionally involved with every cancer diagnosis and death you read about, or you'll go insane.

But try as I might, I couldn't shake off the MCA news. It punctured my gut, pierced right through my grey, leathery megafauna shield.

Why him? Why now?

MCA was diagnosed around the same time I was.  (Him: July '09. Me: Nov '09.) This alone linked us in my mind. Kind of like when you're pregnant at the exact same time as someone else, and you share the milestones of the journey together. Although I recall thinking, "He's luckier than me." His diagnosis was considered highly treatable. In fact, he was quoted as calling it, "a setback and a pain in the ass", but everyone was fired up that they caught it very early, and it was localized. It wouldn't even affect his voice. He was SET.

We were both young at diagnosis. He, 45. Me, 35. In my mind this also set us apart from say, the 98-year old man with prostate cancer. We were both young! We had health and exuberance on our side! We were just kids! Adam and Shelly: Just a pair of punks! (OK--Admittedly, linking us is a bit of a stretch, but in my mind, I could probably roll with the Beastie Boys. Yeah, definitely I could. BFFs. In my mind.)

Then there's the fact that this guy and his crew were cultural icons to my generation. Whether you liked them or not. Starting as adolescent upstarts then maturing into sonic innovators, they never left the scene, never went out of style, never got stale. They had this crazy, creative energy and enthusiasm about life. They had a knack for making everything they touch turn cool. Many scenes from my life are punctuated by a Beastie Boys soundtrack (I particularly favor "Paul's Boutique" and "Check Your Head". I dislike the early Beastie Boys stuff. See? Something for everyone).

To sum it up, I suppose MCA just seemed immortal. And, hell, his cancer wasn't even considered THAT bad. So explain this one: HE DIED! How does that happen?

And! I'm still here. Me, who has never heard the reassuring words, "highly treatable". And I'm doing great. At least I think I am. I'm sure he thought he was, too.  So how am I supposed to feel? Sad? Scared? Confused? Tired? Same shit, different death.

It's just a reminder that cancer is incredibly unpredictable. It's inconsistent with this greater world in which we live, where everything IS predictable. The sun rises, we make coffee, we take this road to work, certain people will fill our days, food will be plentiful, health is a given, mail arrives, weekend plans are made. It all just WORKS. With cancer, you're forced to re-condition yourself to understand that NOTHING'S a given. Sure, you can make vacation plans, but they might not happen. Your cancer might suddenly blossom. Or, it might go away. Either could happen, so just sit tight and wait and see! Better to plan a few days at a time.

It's true, we all feel immune to mortality. Even though we KNOW that we're all eventually doomed (death and taxes), let's face it-- none of us REALLY think our number's going to be up anytime soon. It happens to other people, but not us, not to our close circle of friends. Even I, who am arguably in a worse position for survival than you, don't think this thing will REALLY, ACTUALLY kill me-- because that's too hard to imagine. Who knows what's in the cards? The fact of the matter is, someone reading this blog could very well keel over and die before I do.

And that's why you read my blog. To feel uplifted and hopeful.  You're welcome.

And so, our pact for this week is NOT to keel over and die, to try to appreciate life because it's NOT a given, and it's not forever. Try to treat the people around us like the gifts that they are. And don't do it because they might die next week, do it because that's the right way to live.

"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself."
-My man Tolstoy


  1. you could definitely hang with the Beastie Boys, no question about it. i love the message in this post and i think of you always!


  2. So happy to read a post Shel- especially since I was just talking about you to my neighbor (who was just diagnosed with early stage breast cancer). Miss you!

  3. yes, there have been many a day that I've been gifted to be sitting next to you in the car while you belt out the beastie boys, full tilt--very good times. thanks for this post.

  4. Awesome eulogy, Shel. Let's get together with some 40s and Paul's Boutique soon, ok? xoxo

  5. "I do not sing but I make a def song/You could live your whole life and I hope you live long"
    (MCA, "Slow and Low" from Licensed to Ill)

    Thanks for the update, Shelly! You are definitely as cool as the Beastie Boys. :)