When he told me, I was shocked and deeply saddened. He told me that it wasn’t a secret, on the one hand, but it wasn’t the sort of personal news he wanted to broadcast, and so I accepted his decision and, aside from expressing my wishes directly to him, kept my yap shut. This was his life and his choice whether to announce it, not mine. But now, Jeff Gamso has done two things. He’s written his first blawg post in a while and, in it, he went public.
A bit over two months ago, I was taken to the emergency room. I had nearly collapsed in the kitchen of a church where I was chopping ham, helping folks from a church in a richer parish prepare a free meal for the area’s residents. The consensus was that I should go to the emergency room.
Triage. Tests. “Your hemoglobin is dangerously low.” Admitted to the hospital. Five units of blood over the next 24 hours or so. More time, more tests. Taken from this suburban branch of the hospital to the main campus. More time, more tests. Nearly discharged – but now, “Off to the cancer center. You have acute myeloid leukemia.”
Gamso had cancer. It’s not unusual. People get cancer. But this was brother Gamso. He’s no kid and as we age, bad things happen to our bodies and so it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Indeed, other dear friends from the blawgosphere have found their bodies at war with their minds, some far younger with their wholes lives ahead of them, children to rear, spouses to love and people to help. But young or old, it’s still a shock.
The chemotherapy worked. I was in complete remission. The trick now is to keep it that way, to prevent a recurrence. Which is why, on this Thursday night, I am once again in the cancer center, where I’ve been now since Monday night – getting more chemo. Sigh.
I expect to be discharged Saturday afternoon. Home again, home again, jiggity jig. And then, a few weeks later, back once more. And once more. And once more. Sigh.
But as I said, I am incredibly lucky.
It’s become trendy to wear one’s misery as a badge of honor. Imagine how many “likes,” how many “thoughts and prayers” Jeffrey could garner on twitter, if only he was on twitter. He’s not. He never has been. And even if he had, he would have done it all wrong. He’s “incredibly lucky.”
So why now? Why tonight from this desk in this cancer ward? For reasons I don’t exactly understand – and perhaps I should have waited until I do, but well, I didn’t – it has to do with the murder tonight of 58-year-old Nicholas Sutton by the good people of the State of Tennessee.
Gamso goes into some of the story behind Sutton, and behind the state of executions in the State of Tennessee. The night he wrote this post, and told of his cancer, Sutton was executed.
And so it is that Nicholas Sutton, killer of four, saved the lives of three corrections officers while he was on death row. And so it is that an unusual collection of folks urged the governor and the courts to commute his death sentence. And so it is that the governor and the courts said no.
And Nicholas Sutton was murdered tonight, killed in the name of the good people of Tennessee, not by lethal injection which he figured would be too painful, but by the electric chair, which we know is likely to be horrifically painful. But his choice.
Jeffrey Gamso, sitting in his hospital room, signing a paper to allow a doc to pump chemo into him because “if he didn’t, he would die,” decided that it was a matter of life and death to write a blawg post, using himself as the foil of choice in juxtaposition to the killing of Nicholas Sutton.
As I said, I’m incredibly lucky.
Not so much Nicholas Sutton. He got to decide whether to die on the gurney or in the chair.
I got to decide whether to die at all.
Gamso didn’t instagram his chemo. He didn’t twit his misery. He didn’t start a GoFundMe to extract the milk of human kindness. He typed on his computer as he sat there, knowing what he faced, to remind us of what the State of Tennessee was about to do, and did, to Sutton.
Nicholas Sutton. May he rest in peace.
Amen. And Jeffrey Gamso. Get well soon, brother. We still need you.