Day 17: Alive and Well

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January 17, 2012 by Alex Hoekstra

Yesterday, the world lost an amazing person.  I’m sure more than one was lost, but one in particular I knew to be a sweet, bright, gentle, caring, supportive and wise woman.  She died yesterday, before I had the chance to say goodbye to her; before I ever really had the chance to get to know her as well as I should have.  She wasn’t a big part of my life, but somehow I feel like I lost something when she passed away.  She was a friend to me and to countless others, as well as a teacher, a mentor, a sister, and played an amazing array of other roles, each bringing light into somebody’s life.  I’m going to miss her.

It’s with regrettable somberness that I went looking for a project today that would characterize (some of) the feelings I have, which surely don’t run nearly as deep as they do for those closest to her.  I can only begin to imagine the grief.  Likewise, I can only begin to imagine the pain and the struggle that she left behind her.  Today’s project chronicles the journey of someone who went through a similar experience (though no two cancer stories can be compared exactly); who made it through and has continued to live and tell others what it was like.

Jeffrey Shagawat was diagnosed with brain cancer last year and has spent his life since then documenting his experience as a cancer patient and a cancer survivor from A to Z.  he hopes to display his collection in a gallery showcase called New Brain.  Medical files, charts, paperwork, insurance claims and rejections, video, photo and written diaries, hospital “souvenirs” – tracking every step of his journey as he coped with his disease, his treatment and the possibility of the end of his life.

I have no doubt that Jeffrey’s journey was unique, but in many ways, so alike too many thousands of others.  I hope his self-reported coping mechanism resonates with others – perhaps most profoundly amongst those who have been touched by cancer in one way or another.  I expect that his exhibit will be fascinating and I wish him congratulations and good luck.


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